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HARVARD 
COLLEGE 
LI BRARY 



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THE HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 




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MArMii.f«AN m. or CAMADA. ltd. 

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I 

I 

I 



THE HORSEMEN OF 
THE PLAINS 



A STORY OF THE GREAT CHEYENNE WAR 



BY 

JOSEPH A. ALTSHELE 

Author of " In Circling Camps/'^* The Last of the Chiefs,** eta 



IJhutraUdhy 

Charles Livingston Bull 



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

1910 

AU righU ru§rv$d 



AL 13^1. 'J^.fO 



HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY 

FR&« THE LIBRARY OF 

OR. JAS-CS J. PUIHAM 

0C10BER 3 1932 



Copyright, 1910 
By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 



Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1910 



Berwick ft Smith Co., Norwood, MaM., tr.8.A. 



CONTENTS 

Ohaptib Paos 

I Friends in Need ,.. 1 

II In the Wilderness 16 

III The Shadow in the Dusk 33 

IV The Dog Soldiers 47 

V The Snowy Pass , 68 

VI The Precipice 85 

VII In the Bearskin 96 

VIII The Midnight Meeting 113 

IX The Sunken River 126 

X The Return by Land : . . . 142 

XI The Coming of Carver 155 

XII The Great Laugh 171 

XIII The Departure 182 

XIV In Cheyenne Hands 197 

XV A Modern Mazeppa 212 

XVI The Island in the River 232 

XVII Little Thermopylae 256 

XVIII The Charge of Roman Nose 274 

XIX The Amazing Flight 291 

XX A Light in the Dark 308 

XXI A-Horse with Custer 320 

XXII The Battle of the Washita 338 

XXIII The Lone Search , 357 

XXIV A Miracle 370 

XXV The Final Settlement : 380 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

**It was the signal of the chief who wore the great 

feather head-dress" Frontispiece 

Facing Page 

** They 're Utes from the other side of the mountain'*. . 90 
**A great bear sprang up from the thicket". 104 

As it shot through the mouth of the pass it took a 



tc 



tc 



foaming fall" „ 145 

As it was, Bob heard the bullet singing a little warn- 
ing in his ear" i.- „ 163 

The great figure was tense and drawn, ready to lash 
out like lightning with those sharp hoofs" 230 

"They bore the body between them" 290 

The buffalo, hurt and weak, no longer tried to move" 377 



cc 



▼U 



THE HOESEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

CHAPTEE I 
FRIENDS IN NEED 

A boy sat in a little room in the frontier town of 
Omaha. It was a poor and cheap place. A flimsy 
table stood in one comer, an equally flimsy bed in 
another, and one or two pictures from newspapers 
were tacked on the bare, pine walls. There was no 
carpet on the floor. Nothing showed quality, except 
a rifle that lay across the foot of the bed. 

The weapon was a fine breech-loader, advanced 
in type for the time, and a skilful hand had carved 
initials and several graceful little decorations on 
the stock. Any one would surmise that it was highly 
prized by its owner. 

The boy himself was a match for his rifle, a 
stalwart youth, seventeen years old, with the stat- 
ure and strength of a man. His brown hair, cut 
short, curled just a little, and his blue eyes were 
set wide apart, as they usually are in those of large 
minds. His face was brown with tan, but, at the 
edge of the collar, his fair white skin showed. 

A comely boy, and a strong and brave one, as 
the most casual observer would have inferred. But 
he was dressed poorly, and the look upon his face, 
just now, was not cheerful, although his was a 
jifiture disposed to see the better side of things, 

I 1 



\ . 



2 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

and he had all the flush of early youth. The win- 
dow was open, and he gazed out of it, but saw little, 
because his thoughts, for the moment, were turned 
elsewhere. 

What the blue eyes did not see was an expanse 
of new wooden houses, built hastily for shelter, and 
not for beauty, unpaved streets, with sidewalks of 
boards, and, beyond them, the circling eddies of a 
great brown river that flowed from regions yet 
largely unknown. 

But a sky of an extraordinary, brilliant blue 
curved over the new town. The same intense vivid 
light that showed all the crudeness of the houses 
and streets, surcharged the air with buoyancy and 
hope, and made the world itself seem very beautiful. 

The wind was blowing steadily out of the west, 
and it was a remarkable wind. It swept over two 
thousand miles of clean land, as pure as the sea, 
but it was touched with a faint odor of coming 
spring, of the young grass beginning to appear on 
the boundless plains, and of the buds breaking forth 
in the mountain forests. 

The note of the wind at last reached the boy. 
He raised his head a little, and the indefinable per- 
fume, faint in fact but powerful in fancy, entered 
his nostrils, and all his senses were keenly stirred. 
The blue eyes turned toward the west, and they 
began to see at last. But they did not see the rough 
wooden houses and the muddy streets. They saw 
the vast West, that lay beyond the white man's 
plow, the land of the unknown, of mystery, of the 
shaggy buffalo herd, and the pitiless Indian. It 



FRIENDS IN NEED 8 

was an enchanted region, none the less so because 
of its dangers, and just now it was calling to the 
boy in a voice that he must hear. 

He bent his head a little toward the wind, and 
gradually tiie gloom went from his face. The bine 
eyes grew bright as became his years and his 
mind roamed far in pleasant lands, through great 
adventures. 

He left the window presently, and, going to the 
bed, took up the rifle, which he handled with affec- 
tion* It had belonged to his father who fell three 
years before, in the great Civil War» at tiie Battle of 
the Wilderness, and he had left little but this fine 
weapon and his memory, to his son. 

The war was over a year and Bobert Norton, 
without either father or mother or any near rela- 
tive, had wandered into this frontier town, not 
knowing what he was going to do. He had no plan. 
He had spent a little time with an emigrant train; 
be had helped farmers to break horses, but, passing 
from one task to another, he had been moving 
steadily westward. 

He did not realize until now the direction in which 
his course had taken him, but when he saw it he 
also understood it. It was the Great West, the 
Mighty West, the West of mystery and romance 
that always beckoned him. Since he could remem- 
ber he had heard of it, the wonderful tales of the 
Forty-Niners, the plains, the mountains, the wild 
animals, the wild Indians, the gold, the furs and 
tiie danger. 

Now, with the feel of the rifle in his hands, he 






4 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

took ids resolntion. He would go into this vast 
and yet wild West, and fend for himself. One could 
not go alone, but he might find comrades, and there 
was no better place than this town of Omaha, the 
point of departure for the plains, in which to look 
for them. 

All his confidence returned. The tide of early 
youth was at the full, and, rifle on shoulder, he left 
the house, going into the fresh, perfumed air, 
which still blew strongly from the great regions 
of mystery. Many people were in the unpaved 
streets, and, like himself, they were occupied with 
thoughts of the West. Their faces were seldom 
turned Eastward. 

The fact that a boy was carrying a rifle attracted 
no attention. Nearly everybody carried either rifles 
or pistols and often both, and there was abundant 
need of them. Before a man went many miles west 
of Omaha his life depended solely upon his own 
skill and courage. 

The crowd in the street interested the boy greatly. 
It was a cheerful throng, thinking little of the 
dangers it was about to face. An emigrant train 
would start for California by the Santa Fe route 
in the morning, some gold-seekers would leave a 
few hours later for the mountains of the far North- 
west, and a pony express was just going. 

Eobert looked at both the emigrant train and 
the gold-seekers, but he decided that he would not 
apply for membership in either party. 

His walk took him toward the river, and he stood 
looking at the brown stream, his face turned towards 



.-.■* 



FBIENDS IN NEED 5 

its source. His feeling of mystery and fascination 
was deepened by the Missouri, which was not in 
itself a beautiful object. But it came from the 
unknown, the lands that he longed to enter. 

While he looked, a half dozen boats, flat and broad, 
manned by perhaps thirty men, appeared, floating 
on the muddy current. The men were clothed 
partly in white garb and partly in skins. Their 
faces were almost as brown as those of Indians, and 
their hair grew long. Every one was well armed, 
and the boats were filled with large bales. 

The boy knew that they were fur hunters, return- 
ing from a successful expedition, probably lasting 
two or three years, into the Eocky Mountains. They 
appealed to him more than either the emigrants or 
the gold-seekers, and he regarded them eagerly. 
What wonders they must have seen and what deeds 
they must have done I 

** Looks as ef they had been somewhere, don't 
they?'* said a cheery voice beside him. 

The boy turned abruptly. He had not noticed the 
approach of any one, but the voice was so deep, it 
had such a round, full and hearty tone, that he 
knew an honest heart must have inspired the speech. 

He beheld a man of middle height, but uncom- 
monly big of bone and very powerful. He had 
thick curly hair, rosy cheeks and a magnificent set 
of large, white teeth. All of his dress was civilized 
but a raccoon skin cap, with the short tail hanging 
down behind. He was fully armed, carrying a fine 
rifle on his shoulder and a revolver and knife at 
Ids belt. But he had a wonderfully ingratiating 



ih^v.- 



6 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

smile, and the heart of the lonely boy warmed to 
him at once. 

** Trappers comin' back," said the stranger, nod- 
ding toward the men in the boat, **an' they've been 
in Inck. They've got somethin' worth sellin'. Took 
a long time though/' 

**Wish I was with a party like that, going instead 
of coming,'' said the boy. **I'd like to be a fur 
hunter. ' ' 

"Good trade," said the man, "an' it ain't dead 
yet, by no means. Has its dangers, though. Injuns, 
lots of 'em. Look out for 'em. But do not be a 
pessimist, my boy. It's a habit." 

Bobert stared and the man smiled back at biiy^ 
in a gratified way. 

"I'm always hopin' for the best. It's comfortin'," 
he said. "My name is Sam Strong an' I come from 
Kentucky, but I've been a hunter an' trapper more 
than ten years. What's your name?" 

"Bobert Norton," replied the boy, not at all 
offended by the question, which was natural on the 
border. 

"Bobert, h— ml That's long for Bob. Bob's 
better, and Bob it will be." 

* * As you like, ' ' said Bob smiling. 

"Now, Bob," said Sam Strong, "I saw you 
standin' here lookin' at them fur boats, an' I knew 
what you was thinkin'. You was wantin' to be out 
in the wilderness yourself takin' furs." 

"That is so," said Bob frankly, "you read me 
right." 

** An' you was lookin' tre-men-je-ous lonesome, but 



FRIENDS IN NEED 7 

there ^s a good time comin' for you. Now Bob, you 
want to go f ur-huntin ', an' fur-huntin' you shall go.'^ 
**What do you mean?'' asked Bob, his whole face 
beaming. Sam Strong of the twinkling eyes already 
inspired confidence in him. 

** Didn't I just tell you I was a trapper an' hunter T 
I'm one of a little band that's just startin' out, 
an' we need another. You want to go, an' we take 
you. So we kill one bird with two stones." 

Bob smiled at bis mixture of the proverb, but he 
was happy. His ^heart had cried for a friend, and 
he was finding one. 

''I'll go with you," he cried, ''I'll go anywhere 
with you, and I '11 do my part of the work. ' ' 

"An' your part of the fightin' too, I take it, if any 
is to bo done. Well, variety is the salt an' pepper 
of life, an' you an' me, an' the rest of the fellers 
ought to see some lively times together. Bob. I'm 

: takin' you on faith, an' you're takin' me the same 
way. Come along." 

They left the 'river, and went back toward the 
center of the town, the minds of both intent upon 
the business ahead. The crowd was still lively, 
and, in one or two places, it had become turbulent. 
The cause of the turbulence was obvious. The trap- 

j per looked at the offenders in disgust. 

^ The eyes of Sam Strong, usually so benevolent, 

^ snapped with disapproval. 

^ "Fools! Little children!" he said. "Seems 
strange to me, Bob, that anybody should want to 

\ get that way with bad liquor, when this air itself 

^||||||ritt|h En up with wine." 



8 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

He too lifted his head, and inhaled the perfumed 
wind that blew from the great clean West. 

**I reckon I'm a good deal of a wild man, Bob,*' 
he continued. **I like to come into a town now and 
then, to see the sights and have a good time, but 
for a regular life give me the wilderness. Now this 
party of ours ain't a big one, an' we don't go by 
water. We ride across the plains." 

**I haven't any horse," said Bob, with a sudden 
sinking of the heart, **and I haven't money enough 
to buy one." 

**Ain't that too badt" said Sam Strong. '*He 
ain't got any horse an' he ain't got money 'nough 
to buy one. Now he's invited to join a trappin* 
outfit, everybody expectin' him to do his share of 
the work, an' his share of the fightin' if need be, 
an' he thinks nobody will grubstake him." 

His playful little satire was so obvious that the 
boy blushed. It was a long time since he had met 
so much kindness, and his heart warmed more than 
ever toward stalwart Sam Strong.' 

**I'll pay you back out of the very first money 
I earn," he said earnestly. 

** Don't I know that!" said Sam. **Did you 
think I'd take you, if I didn't know you was the 
right stuff! Here's our shanty. I'll introduce yon 
to the boys, an' make you one of the gang." 

He led the way into a large wooden house that 
served as a hotel. The lobby was crowded with all 
the types of the border, and the air was thick with 
smoke, but Sam did not stop there. He ascended 
the narrow staircase that led to the second floor, 



FRIENDS IN NEED 9 

Bob by his side. Two men, to whom he had given 
glances that Bob did not notice, detached themselves 
from the crowd and followed. 

Sam Strong went down a narrow hall, opened a 
door and entered a large room. The two men who 
had followed came in also, and then he closed the 
door. Three others who were already in the room 
rose to their feet and one of them said: 

** Hello, Cap, what's this critter that yonVe 
brought nsT* 

Bob blushed again, knowing that five pairs of 
inquiring eyes were upon him, but Sam Strong 
laughed. 

**This,'' he replied, *4s the camp baby; that is, 
he's goin' to be. We thought we needed one more 
feller for our trip, an' a likely chap like this can 
be a lot of use. Boys make things lively around a 
camp, an ' he can wait on us, when he ain 't got any- 
thin' else to do. I ketched him down by the river, 
an ' brought him in. " 

All the men laughed and Bob was embarrassed. 
But he knew that word and laugh were kindly. 
While Sam Strong was giving his name and pedi- 
gree, and introducing him in his easy Western 
fashion, he looked carefully at them all, one by one. 

They were a marked lot. - Second to Sam Strong 
was a tall, lank Missourj^an with a scarred and 
weatherbeaten face, called Bill Cole. Then came 
two younger men, Tom Harris and Porter Evans. 
Harris was from Michigan and Evans from Ten- 
nessee. They had fought on different sides in the 
Civil War, and that fact now made them the closest 



10 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

of friends, although they never agreed in anything 
abont the late great strife. Then there was Louis 
Perolet, a little French-Canadian, compact and 
strong like a coil of woven steel wire, and Obadiah 
Pirtle, a slow spoken man from Maine, completed 
the list. 

All were dressed in a mixture of wild and civilized 
garb, and their faces showed many signs of life, far 
beyond the fences that the white man builds. Every 
one seemed to the boy to speak, by his very appear- 
ance, of the mountains and the plains. Their rifles 
leaned against the wall, their pistols were at their 
belts, but their voices were gentle, and no hostility 
was in the glance of any one of them. 

Bob was seized with a mighty sense of intoxi- 
cating joy. He had found suddenly, and, without 
the least hope, that for which he longed most. He, 
an inexperienced boy, was going to be admitted to 
a most glorious company. No young squire, about 
to become a knight, was ever more enthralled. He 
resolved, if he passed the ordeal of trial success- 
fully, to devote his last breath to the common good, 
if need be. 

**Well boys,*' said Sam Strong, **havin* looked 
him up an* down an* studied his p'ints, what do 
you think of the colt!** 

^'Strappin* big youngster,** said Porter Evans. 
*'We had a lot like him at Shiloh when we give the 
Yankees such a terrible beatin*.** 

*'Give us a beatin*, did you?** exclaimed Tom 
Harris. **I could live and grow fat on such beatin *8 
as that. Why, we chased your whole army right 



FRIENDS IN NEED 11 

into the middle of the Tennessee Biver, an' for all 
I know it's there yet." 

''That'll do for yon two," said Sam genially. 
"If you are bonnd to fight the war over again, go 
ont an' do it in the hall. Now, Lonis, what do 
yon say?" 

"Heem all right," said the shrewd little French- 
man. "He look all of ns ver straight in the eye, 
an' that enough. He one of us, he help me wiz 
ze cooking." 

"An' you. Bill Cole?" 

"Looks smart to me." 

"An' you, Obe?" 

"I reckon he'll do." 

"Then it's settled," said Sam Strong, clapping 
a heavy hand upon the boy's shoulder. "You're 
chose. Bob. You're a member of this here band. 
Our secrets are your secrets, an' we stand together, 
every man for the lot. Shake hands with your 
new pards." 

Bob shook hands, taking them in turn, and his 
feelings almost overpowered him. But he was duly 
silent, as became a tyro, and, taking a chair, he 
listened, with consuming attention, to their talk. 
It was all of the wild places where they had been, 
and to which they expected to return. The six were 
veterans. Both Harris and Evans had been on the 
plains, when they were boys, before the war, and 
as soon as the struggle ceased, they had returned 
to their old life. 

It surprised and delighted the lad to find himself 
folly accepted into fellowship. Now that he had 



12 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

been made a member of the band they kept nothing 
from him, bnt discussed their past lives and their 
plans, with the ntmost freedom, in his presence. 

After an hour he went with Porter Evans, the 
Tennesseean, to his boarding honse to pay his bill, 
and to obtain his few belongings. The afternoon 
was well advanced when they stepped ont, and the 
western wind was growing colder. Bob shivered, 
jnst a little bit, but would not let the Tennesseean 
see it. He would have been deeply shamed to show 
lack of endurance at the very beginning of his 
career. But the thoughts of Evans were elsewhere. 

"I was right, Bob,'^ he said, somewhat anxiously, 
**when I told Tom Harris that we beat the Tanks 
at Shiloh. We had ^em well thrashed when Buell 
came up* What happened after that don't count. 
Tom was there on the other side, an' he knows, but 
he won't admit it." 

Bob laughed from sheer exuberance of spirit. 

**Tou are surely right, Mr. Evans," he said, 
seeing that his comrade wished to be confirmed by 
his opinion. 

But Evans suddenly stopped and faced him. 

**What did you call me!" he asked. 

**Why, Mr. Evans, of course." 

**Now, see here, I'm Mr. Evans only to them tb 
don't like me, an' that I don't like. To them tl 
rim with me I'm Porter, or Port. Which do 7 
mean to be, a friend or an enemy!" 

**A friend, surely. Porter." 

** That's all right. Now we'll go on an' g< 
things of yours." 



FRIENDS IN NEED IS 

Bob had little to take back with him — ^merely a 
large old-fashioned valise, filled with clothing — and, 
in a half hour, he was at the hotel again with his 
new comrades. The big room, in which they were 
staying, had several beds, and he was to sleep there 
with the others. When he put his valise down by 
the wall Harris drew him to one side, and said in 
a whisper: 

**I know Port told you again about the Battle 
of Shiloh an' claimed that they licked us, but don't 
you believe a word of it, Bob. We drove 'em right 
into the Tennessee." 

**0f course, of course, Tom," said the boy. 

He meant to be no arbiter of history, nor did he 
make the mistake of calling Harris ** Mister." He 
began in this case with **Tom." 
. The cold was increasing as the prairie night drew 
down, and a negro brought in logs for the big fire^ 
place, at one end of the room. Soon a fine blaze 
was crackling and roaring, and they sat in their 
cane chairs in a loose circle about it. Bob had 
little to say, but he still listened, all ears, although 
a pleasant, drowsy warmth was creeping over him. 

They went down to the main dining-room pres- 
ently, and ate supper together. Then they returned 
to the rear room, lighted by the fire, and the men 
brought forth their pipes. The smoke rose, and 
deep content permeated the air. Outside a chill 
wind screamed over the prairie. 

**Them ham an' eggs was mighty good," said 
Bill Cole, **an' they've filled up a big hollow right 
in the inside of me, but I've knowed buflfalo steak 



14 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

to taste better, ^specially when Louis here cooked it/' 

**Have you really lived on buffalo steak, Mr. 
Bilir' asked Bob eagerly. 

j Bill Cole took his pipe out of his mouth, and blew 
a beautiful ring of smoke to the ceiling, where it 
broke. 

''Have I lived on buffalo steak T' he replied in 
tones of deep satisfaction. *'Well, I should say! 
For whole months at a time, an' I lived tre-men- 
je-ous well. Tou just wait till Louis there cooks 
one for you. You could live on them kind for a 
whole year, an' then ask for another year of the 
same.'* 

''We'll have 'em soon," said Obadiah Pirtle. 

Bob's eyes glowed with admiration. 

"We've got to advance the boy enough money to 
buy a pony," said Sam Strong. '"Twon't take 
much, an ' I reckon we can clear out of here in about 
another day. They say that the battle ain't to the 
swift nor the strong, but I reckon that it often is. 
I mean. Bob, that some places in the Eockies are 
much better for trappin' than some other places, 
an' we want to get to the best first." 

Then they began to run over the tally of their 
resources, the rifles, the pistols, the ponies, the steel 
traps and the provisions. Bob gathered from their 
talk that they were well supplied with money, and 
that they had obtained the best of everything. As 
he listened his eyelids grew heavier, and the lids 
pulled down hard. The warmth made him dread- 
fully sleepy. He tried to hide it, but Sam Strong 
caught him at last. 



FRIENDS IN NEED 15 

** Don't be ashamed, boy,'* he said. ** Tumble 
over into bed there at once. The wisest thing that 
a man can do is to go to sleep when he is sleepy, 
if the place allows.'* 

Bob obeyed without demur. For a few minutes 
he saw the fire and the men smoking their pipes, 
and then he was dreaming a mighty dream, in which 
single-handed he was slaying buffalo herds, and 
fighting Indian tribes. 



f 
I: 



CHAPTEE n 
IN THE WILDERNESS 

When Bob awoke, dawn was coming in at the 
uncurtained windows. All his comrades were up 
but the two young soldiers of the great war. Not 
willing to be last, the boy sprang out of bed, and 
began to hurry on his clothes. 

** That's right. Bob,'* said Sam Strong cheerily. 
**YouVe beat both them lazy generals the very first 
momin'. Good start for you.'' 

Harris and Evans opened their eyes at the same 
time, and, at the same time, both sat up. 

**What kept me asleep," said Harris, **was 
dreamin' about that time we whipped the Johnny 
Eebs so bad at Chickamauga. I was just helpin* 
chase 'em into Chattanooga, when I heard your dis- 
turbin' voice, Sam." 

**You beat us at Chickamauga!" exclaimed Porter 
Evans. **Why, we give you the worst lickin' of 
the whole war then, an' when you woke up we were 
chasin' you, not you chasin' us." 

**Shut up," said Sam Strong. **The war has 
done been dead an' buried a whole year, an' I guess 
we'll go down to breakfast. We'd better post Bob 
here, an' tell him not to say anything about our 
plans." 

While the laggard two were dressing. Strong told 
the boy that it was necessary for them to keep their 




IN THE WILDERNESS 17 

expedition and all its plans secret. The only good 
trapping grounds left were deep in the Bocky 
Mountains, and trappers would stalk one another 
in order to discover a choice reserve. Men in 
Omaha now were watching Strong and his com- 
rades, believing that they might follow them and 
profit by it. 

**If anybody asks you questions, Bob,'* said 
Strong, '^just tell him you don't know anything, 
an' you'll be tellin' the truth, too." 

Bob promised, and nothing could have made him 
break the promise. They ate breakfast and dis- 
persed about their errands, having agreed to meet 
again at the hotel late in the afternoon. Bob's 
business was to buy a pony with money loaned him 
by Sam Strong out of the common fimd. He was 
a good judge of horses, and, as they were for sale 
everywhere, he soon selected a strong young animal 
from a group in a corral at the edge of the town. 
Several spectators stood by, as the boy bought his 
horse, and one of them, a tall man of strong build 
and dark skin, said in the most casual manner : 

**You seem to have a good eye for a horse, my 
lad. That's a fine one you bought just then, and 
you didn't let them make you pay too much." 

Bob flushed with appreciation at these chance 
words of praise, evidently so sincere, and replied: 

^*I hope you're right, sir. I've need of a good 
mount." 

** Going across the plains, I presume," said the 
man in the same casual tone. "It's dangerous, but 
it's a great thing for a yoxmgster like you." 
9 



r 
I 



•^,. 



18 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

Bob was about to reply, but checked himself sud- 
denly, remembering the warning that Strong had 
given. However, there was nothing in this man's 
appearance to cause apprehension. His smooth, 
slightly foreign face was well cut, and his eyes had 
the look of benevolence. His English was modu- 
lated correctly, and without accent. His manner 
was decidedly attractive, but Bob was already 
devotedly loyal to his comrades, and he was resolved 
to be on the cautious side, even at the risk of 
seeming churlish. 

**It's a long ride to California,'' continued the 
man, ** unless you're stopping somewhere in the 
Eockies, and one has to be a member of a strong 
party, too, as the Cheyennes> both northern and 
southern, are out, and are taking scalps.'' 

**So I've heard," said Bob vaguely, and mounting 
his new pony he rode away. He found the others 
already at the primitive hotel, making all their 
things into packs for the start. He thought at first 
that he would not say anything about the stranger, 
but the manner in which the man had continued his 
inquiries, or rather suggestions, caused him to be 
suspicious as he thought it over. So he told Strong 
of the circimistance. The leader was at once alert. 



**Now I always think the best is goin' to happen," 
he said, *'but it won't happen xmless you help it 
to happen, an' it seems to me somebody else wants 
to put a finger in our pie. What kind of lookin' 
feller was he, Bob!" 

^^Tall, strong, smooth face, dark skin, hair and 
eyes." 






IN THE WILDERNESS 19 

"Look like a preacher! '* 

"Yes, he did, and there was something foreign 
abont him, too. It showed mostly in his voice/' 

**Hear that, Obef said Strong. **I'm always 
hopin' for the best, but who do you think that fellow 
wasf 

**Juan Carver.'* 

**An' you. Bill! You ain't a bad hand at 
guessin'." 

**Juan Carver, an' it ain't no guess, neither." 

'*An' our two generals here, an' Louis, think the 
same way," said Sam Strong. '* Still hopin' for 
the best, I know it's Carver, an' he means to follow 
us. He was tryin' to pump you about us. Bob." 

**Who is Juan Carver!" asked the boy, his nerves 
tingling with curiosity. 

*' Juan Carver is a bad man," replied Sam Strong. 
"I like to think the best of everybody, but there 
ain't a doubt of it. He's the son of an American 
father an' a Mexican mother — ^that's where he gets 
that touch of the foreigner — and they do say that 
he ain-t got the virtues of either, though full of 
knowledge an' cunnin'. He's a trapper with a 
band of his own. Some say he's independent, an' 
some say he represents the Hudson Bay. If a few 
fellers like ourselves were to find rich trappin' 
grounds an' streams he'd f oiler along, drive us 
away, an' take 'em himself. Like jumpin' a claim, 
don't you see!" 

Bob saw very well, and he was glad that he had 
not let the man draw him on in regard to their 
plans. His news stirred his comrades greatly, and 



20 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

they held a council in their own room. It was 
agreed that they should make a night start as soon 
as the moon rose. Their horses and supplies were 
on the other side of the town. Bill Cole was to slip 
away first and have everything ready. Then the 
others would come. 

'*We want to shake Juan and his crowd clean 
off/' said Sam Strong, ** an' if we get a good start 
they'll never find us." 

*'We can be forty miles from here by dawn," 
said Obadiah Pirtle. 

Bill Cole left at eight o 'clock, and then the others 
followed about nine, every one armed with a rifle 
and revolver and knife. Bob's revolver and knife, 
like his pony, were bought from the common 
fund. The night was dark, which favored their 
wishes, and it was but ill lighted by a few flaring 
gas lamps. 

People, mostly men, were still in the streets, but 
so far as they could see, no notice was taken of the 
comrades, and they sped to the other side of the 
town, where at one of the corrals, used by out- 
fitting expeditions. Bill Cole was waiting for them. 

** Haven't seen anybody watchin' us," said Bill, 
tersely. *'B'lieve they think we're not going for 
several days yet." 

**Hope you're right, an' it's good always to hope 
for the best," said Sam Strong. 

Besides their own mounts they had fifteen pack 
horses, all trained to follow without being led, which 
was a valuable quality, when their owners wished 
to be free for action. These horses were weD ;i 






IN THE WILDERNESS 21 

loaded with supplies besides carrying a number of 
extra rifles and revolvers, several fine breech-load- 
ing shotguns, and great quantities of ammunition. 

Bob mounted his horse and they rode out. Every 
nerve in the boy thrilled with a vast and vivid 
delight. Here he was, embarked upon his great 
adventure, and, from the first moment, they were in 
the thick of it. He sat his saddle firmly. His rifle 
was strapped across his back and he looked straight 
ahead at their leader, Sam Strong, whose figure had 
become dim, as the dark deepened. 

They passed, with the rhythmic sound of hoofs, 
out upon the prairie into the land which belonged 
to biTTi who could take it. Bob looked back. The 
light of the last flaring street lamp was gone, and 
the night had blotted out everything. Overhead, 
the stars were hidden by drifting clouds. 

A horse and rider rose out of the prairie. 

^* Which way, friends f asked a voice, and it was 
that of the man who had accosted Bob when he 
bought his pony. 

"None of your business, Juan Carver," cried 
Sam Strong. 

Bob was startled by the change in his leader. All 
the gentleness was gone from his voice which had 
the sharp, fierce crack of a pistol-shot. Without 
an instant's hesitation Strong rode his horse directly 
at Carver, whose own horse went down xmder the 
impact, carrying with him his rider who uttered an 
angry cry, as he fell. 

Strong's horse leaped clear and his rider called 
out: "Come on, boys I" as he swung away at a 



22 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

swift gallop. The six followed at the same pace^ 
Bob's heart beating loud and fast, as he galloped 
over the swells. They heard the faint sound of a 
shot behind them, but Sam only laughed. 

*' That's Juan,'' he said, **but he's only wastin' 
a good bullet. His horse will walk lame for some 
days, an' the rest of his band are too far back to 
catch us. I'm always hopin' for the best, an' I 
don't think Juan Carver will have the chance to 
raid our fur village." 

They galloped on over the low swells, and the 
supply horses in a close group thundered after 
them. Bob kept his place next to Sam Strong, 
riding with an easy but firm seat. His heart was 
not beating so loud and fast now, and pride began 
to take the place of excitement. He had been 
under firel That shot might as well have been 
aimed at him as at anybody else. 

Sam let their pace sink to a hand gallop, but, 
even then, they ate up space at a great rate, never 
veering from a course that led due west. Bob 
trusted everything to his pony, knowing that he was 
keen of sight and sure of foot. The night darkened 
further, but he could see that the country was free 
from obstructions, just the low swells, succeeding 
one another, at almost regular intervals. 

He felt once more that singular penetrating thrill, 
giving a pleasure so keen that it was almost a pain. 
He was now well into his magic world, and the first 
of his wishes had come true. About midnight they 
stopped and Strong and Cole, taking the boy with 
them, rode back a hundred yards or so. 



*':k*2- 



IN THE WILDEBNESS 23 

There they listened intently, but could hear noth- 
ing, not a single sound of pursuit. Bob heard 
instead a low moaning, but he knew it to be the 
wind sweeping over the swells. Sam Strong dis- 
mounted at last and put his ear to the earth. 

*'Nothin', Captain! '* said Bill Cole after a wait 
of two minutes. 

**NothinV' replied Strong with conviction. 
**WeVe shook *em off. There can't be a doubt of 
it an* Juan, whether he stands for himself or Hud- 
son Bay, will have a hard time in findin' us.'* 

They rejoined their comrades, and rode at a walk 
about three hours longer. The sky was then begin- 
ning to lighten, the clouds having gone away. The 
great stars were coming out, and they danced in the 
blue in what seemed to Bob a friendly way. 

They came to a dip, deeper than the rest, at the 
bottom of which flowed a shallow creek, and Sam 
Strong gave the word to dismount. **It's a shel- 
tered place, as good as any we can find,'* he said, 
^* an' we'll camp here, but there are to be no lights. 
We'll just roll up in our blankets and go to sleep." 

Bob, stiff from the long, hard riding, was glad 
enough to dismoxmt, and he did not delay about 
following the second part of Sam's directions. 
After the horses were tethered he picked out the 
softest spot on the ground that he could find, folded 
his warm blanket about him, and in five minutes 
was sleeping soundly. 

He awoke when the first bar of gray was just 
appearing in the east. He saw, with sleepy eyes, 
ihat Strong and Cole were on watch at the edge 



24 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

of their little camp. Most of the horses had lam 
down, and all were still. Three recumbent forms 
near him showed that the others were yet asleep. 

Bob himself was only half awake. He was in the 
dreamy, delightful state when one neither remem- 
bers nor plans. He lay there, still looking toward 
the east. He saw through filmy eyes the great 
rod rim of the rising sun that seemed to come bodily 
out of the earth, pouring a brilliant light over the 
gray prairies. He saw one of the sentinels moving 
on noiseless feet, and, although he knew the day was 
at hand, he fell asleep again. 

When he opened his eyes once more it was to 
awake completely, and to find that all the others 
wore up and moving. He threw off the blanket and 
Hl)rang to his feet, ashamed of himself, but he was 
greeted only with laughter, full of good nature. 

The sun was a full three hours high, and over a 
fire of sticks some broiling birds gave out a fine 
odor. 

**Yos, you've slept late,'* said Sam Strong. **I 
boliovo in takin' rest when you need it, an' can get 
it, without payin' too high a price, so, as last night 
was most likely the first of the kind you ever had, 
we let you snooze on so sound that you didn't wake, 
while Tom and Porter were fightin' the battle of 
(Jottysburg over again for a full hour. Ain't that 
so, generals!" 

The two young soldiers grinned and nodded. 
The broiling birds were prairie chickens that Bill 
Cole, an uncommonly good marksman and hunter, 
had shot. Bob was invited to help himself, and, 



J 



IN THE WILDERNESS 25 

broiling one on a sharpened twig, he ate the whole 
of it. The morning air, with the wind blowing, as 
it nsually does on the prairies, was sharp and crisp, 
and he could never remember to have had such an 
appetite before. 

After breakfast he went down to the shallow 
stream and drank. The water was not very clear, 
and it had a slightly bitter taste, but he did not 
mind it. Again that wonderful air made every- 
thing seem good. Then he began to work with the 
horses and the packs, and to look after as many 
details of the camp as he could, resolved that he 
should justify the confidence that had been placed 
in him. 

Sam Strong watched Bob out of those benevolent 
blue eyes of his — eyes that were shrewd, eyes that 
could become as cold as steel — and he was pleased. 
The lonely boy by the river had appealed to him, 
but he never would have chosen him for their party 
had he not judged him the possessor of qualities 
that would prove valuable. Now he was justified, 
and he turned to Bill Cole. 

"He's the right stuff, ain't he?" he said, nodding 
toward the lad. 

"True blue, all wool and a yard wide,'' replied 
Bill, sententiously. 

Then they held a brief conference. They were 
about thirty miles from Omaha, and already in 
No Man's Land, but they knew the locality well. 
Nevertheless they must choose their route, and pro- 
ceed with great caution. Both the Northern and 
Southern Cheyennes were raiding the plains, and 



26 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

many terrible tales, most of them true, had come 
into Omaha. 

** We've got to watch sharp for warriors, *' said 
Sam Strong. *'If they're only a few when we see 
'em we'll stand 'em off; if they're a lot we'll rmi." 

It was now past eleven o'clock, and they rode 
away again, the mustangs proceeding at a long, 
easy walk that they seemed able to keep up forever. 
Bob rode now by the side of Obadiah Pirtle, who 
pointed out to him how spring was approaching. 
He called his attention to the tiny shoots of green, 
almost hidden under the dry grass of last year. 
They saw here and there also a modest little flower 
just raising its head. 

'* Spring will come runnin* now," said Obe. 
**She'll just bust out. This ain't like the country 
in which I was bom.. Up in Maine there are big 
forests, an' heaps of rocks, an' lots of clear water 
tumblin' down the hills. Here there ain't any 
forests, nor rocks, an' mighty little runnin* water, 
but I love it all the same. ' ' 

*'So do I," said Bob with so much earnestness 
and emphasis that the Down Easter smiled. 

That night they reached another shallow creek, 
and encamped in the fringe of cottonwoods on its 
banks. Strong permitted them to build a fire, as 
he believed that they had thrown Carver off their 
track, and that no Cheyennes were near. It was 
still cold at night, and the blaze was grateful. Sev- 
eral of the prairie chickens were left, and they a' 
them, preferring to save their stores. 

That night Bob at his own request helped w 



IN THE WILDERNESS 27 

the watch. He was to keep the first half and Porter 
Evans the second, and he felt the weight of his 
responsibility. But he was proud of it also. He 
saw the men lie down in their blankets, and then 
become still. The wind moaned across the swells 
and a restless horse moved now and then, but the 
boy was not lonely. 

The darkness thinned away, as his eyes grew used 
to it. He saw the cottonwoods, not yet in spring 
foliage, swaying back and forth in the wind, and he 
clearly saw the outlines of the horses tethered near. 
He walked for a long time in a half circle about the 
camp, the creek forming the segment. He trod 
softly lest he awake any of his comrades, and he 
never ceased to watch. Doubtless no camp on all 
the plains that night had a more vigilant sentinel. 

It was about midnight, when he heard a low 
wailing cry, far off on the prairie, and it made a 
little shiver run through his flesh. He thought at 
first that it might be a Cheyenne signal, but it was 
only the howl of a coyote, scavenger of the plains. 
He shook his rifle a little scornfully, and walked 
on. He would not let wolves annoy him. 

But, as the moon faded and the night grew 
colder, and the wind stronger. Bob was glad to keep 
a little closer to his comrades, his half circle nar- 
rowing perceptibly. He felt now the full immen- 
sity of the wilderness and its desolation. The 
coyote howled again, a dismal weird howl, full of 
ghostly suggestion, and Bob came a little closer to 
the fire, glad to see that some coals were left yet, 
sparks of living red in the grass. 



28 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

Despite his occasional attacks of goose-flesh, the 
boy never shirked his task. He made it a test for 
himself, subjecting his own body and mind to stem 
discipline. He was to go off duty about one in the 
morning, but he purposely waited an hour later 
before he awakened Evans. 

The Tennesseean yawned prodigiously, as he 
came from his blanket. 

**One o'clock, is it, BobT' he said. 

'^Yes,'' replied the boy. 

But Evans had a watch and there was light 
enough for him to see its face. 

**Why, it's two o'clock," he said, **an' youVe 
watched an hour over time! What did you do it 
for?" 

**I forgot," said the boy in some confusion. 

Evans eyed him keenly and with suspicion. 

*'You didn't do anything of the kind," he said. 
**You gave me an extra hour on purpose. I won't 
forget it. Bob." 

They rode on two more days without event. 
They saw antelope in the distance, several times, 
but they did not turn aside for a shot, and once Bob 
beheld on a distant slope huge, shaggy forms that 
he knew to be those of the buffalo. They were all 
sorely tempted to try for such big game, but the 
leader finally ruled to the contrary. 

**What we want to do," he said, '4s to cover 
ground, not to shoot buffaloes." 

But, as they continued their journey and saw no • . 
signs of Indians, they turned aside for buffalo and 
antelope, the game still being plentiful. Both Sam 



1 ^ 



>-. 'Vm 



IN THE WILDEBNESS 29 

Strong and Bill Cole argued from its abundance 
and comparative tameness that neither white men 
nor red had passed recently through that region. 
Bob helped at the killing of a fat cow and they 
enjoyed a great feast^ Louis Perolet cooking the 
steaks with the skill and delight which perhaps only 
a Frenchman knows in such pursuits. 

**Eet ees good,'* he said, *4his buffalo steak, an* 
eet belongs to America. The Old World have hees 
triumphs, an' the New World have hees too.*' 

The next day they saw a long blue line under the 
horizon which Bob mistook for a haze. But he was 
soon set right by Sam Strong. 

''That's a range of hills or buttes," he said, *'an' 
they're a good place to stay away from. The Sioux 
an* the Cheyennes keep lookouts, posted on the 
highest smmnits, an' when they see an emigrant 
train or any other white party passin' they signal 
to the warriors on horseback below. We'll sheer 
off." 

They turned from the blue haze, but Bob saw the 
low line for a long time. The air was so wonder- 
fully clear that it refused to disappear in the plain, 
and the faint blur did not go until sunset came. 

That night it was again Bob's turn to keep the 
first half of the watch and, for precaution, Sam 
Strong was sentinel with him. The night was light, 
with a good moon and plenty of bright stars, and 
the boy found himself looking, nearly all the time, 
toward that point on the horizon, where the unseen 
Kne of buttes lay. His eyes were drawn in that 
direction by a sort of terrible fascination. The 



30 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

idea of the savage warriors, watching on the crest 
of the buttes to signal an ambush, made his flesh 
creep once more. 

When he had been on watch about two hours, 
and, while his eyes were turned toward the haunted 
horizon, he saw a light, faint and very far. He 
thought at first that it was some star hanging 
low, but its motion and radiance were unlike those 
of a star, and, when he saw it swing slowly from 
side to side, he knew that it was a signal. He 
touched Sam Strong on the arm and pointed to 
the light. 

*'It's a Cheyenne talkin' from the top of one of 
the buttes, ' ' said the leader. ' ' Now I wonder what 
he's sayin', but anyway some friend of his wiU be 
answerin' him soon. There, look! See the other 
fellow talkin' back!** 

A second light appeared on the horizon to the 
right of the first, and it too swung slowly back and 
forth. It ceased and the first took up the talk 
again. The second made a vigorous rejoinder and 
then both disappeared like the blowing out of a 
candle. 

**What do you make of it?** asked the boy. 

Sam Strong shook his head in doubt. 

^^Nothin','* he replied, ** except that there was 
never a better time for us to be watchin*. The 
Cheyennes are full of tre-men-jeous-ly bad medi- 
cine, an* they*ve got two chiefs, Roman Nose an' 
Black Kettle, as bold an* cunnin* as they ever make 
*em. I*m goin* to wake up the rest of the bo7% 
Bob, an* we'll move on in the night.*' 



.J" _ i 



IN THE WILDEENESS 31 

He shook the sleeping men one by one, and they 
sat np. 

**I know you both were dreamin' that you won 
Antietam, or some other of them big battles/' he 
said to Evans and Harris, ^^but if we don't look 
out we may have a battle of our own not so big, 
but jest as dangerous to us. Me an' Bob have seen 
Cheyennes talkin' to each other, a long way oflf, it's 
true, but it's time for us to scoot." 

The men asked no questions, knowing that Sam 
Strong would not act without good cause, and in 
fifteen minutes they moved away with their horses 
in the dark, advancing at a rapid gait, but as before 
into the west. 

The country was now slightly more broken. At 
intervals, they skirted shallow oblong depressions, 
which Bill Cole told Bob were buffalo wallows. 
Some of these basins still held water from melting 
snows, and twice they stopped for their horses to 
drink from them. Once they heard a snort, and the 
hasty tramping of heavy feet. Bob saw dusky 
forms disappearing, and he knew that they had dis- 
turbed resting buffaloes. 

They did not stop until nearly daylight, camping 
in a little grove of cottonwoods that grew between 
two high swells. Strong and Cole watched and 
awakened the others at the first upshot of the dawn. 
The day came on, gray and lowering, and every one 
scanned the entire circle of the horizon with anxious 
eyes. No fire was lighted, the breakfast being of 
cold food, and Bill Cole, who went on scout around 
the grove of cottonwoods, returned with the report 



32 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

that he had seen the hoofprints of unshod ponies. 

*''Bout a day old, near as I can guess/' he said, 
*'an' Cheyennes were ridin' them ponies. There 
can't be a doubt of it." 

''Which means that Cheyennes are somewhere 
near us, may be to the right, may be to the left,'* 
said Sam Strong. ''I am always hopin' for the 
best, which I believe a man should never fail to do, 
but jest now I think we ought to .get ready for the 
worst.'* 






' --•'■If 

1. - ' I 



CHAPTER m 
THE SHADOW IN THE DUSK 

All their journey hitherto had been made in fair 
weather, but now was a promise of foul. The wind 
that nearly always blew across the plains, shifted 
to the northwest, with great rapidity, and its touch 
made Bob shiver, with sudden cold, clear to the very 
marrow. The horses seemed to feel apprehension, 
and all of them — ^whether for packs or for riding — 
crowded close together. 

** Looks like a blow,'' said Obadiah Pirtle, ''and 
maybe rain or hail with it, too." 

''I'm always hopin' for the best," said Sam 
Strong, "but I think you're right. After all it 
may not be a bad thing for us, as a storm may hide 
us from the Cheyennes." 

They decided to move at once from the cotton- 
woods, as a fierce wind might send the trees crash- 
ing upon them, and they advanced into the open 
plain, here rising and falling in gentle swells. The 
whole sky was now leaden, and the whistling wind, 
out of the northwest, steadily grew colder. Even 
the horses shivered, and, when they reached the 
deepest dip that they could find, the riders dis- 
mounted and arranged them in a ring, some tethered 
and others held by their lariats. The men stood in 
the center of the ring. 

Before these brief preparations were completed, 

8 33 



Uj;i. 



34 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

solemif thunder began to growl on the horizon, and 
lightning flared in the same direction. Then both 
thunder and lightning ceased, and the wind died. 
After two or three minutes of intense stillness, both 
lightning and thunder began again, but in a wholly ^ 
different way. There was a crash, so tremendous, 
that it made the boy jump a foot into the air, and 
then came the stroke of lightning, cutting the 
heavens across with a dazzling flash and blinding 
every one, for a moment or two. 

As soon as Bob recovered from the glare, light- 
ning and thunder came again, surpassing anything 
that he had ever heard or seen further east, and 
frightening him, despite every effort of the wiU to 
control himself. It was, perhaps, fortunate for him 
that he, as well as the others, soon had occupation. 
Some of the horses, terrified by the storm, were 
pulling at their lariats, and it was hard work to 
hold them all. Yet this must be done. Their horses 
were like boats to sailors, and they did not wish to 
lose a single one. 

The men, knowing what was to come, had wrapped 
blankets about themselves, and Bob did likewise. 
Soon the thunder sank, and the lightning faded. 
Then the cold wind from the northwest sprang up 
again, and with it came the rain in slanting sheets, 
that soon delug^ the earth. But in ten minutes 
the rain changed to driven hail, and then they were 
glad enough to have the ring of horses about them 
as shelter. ^ 

Bob wore a cap, the brim of which he pulled down 
to protect his ^es, and cowered against his*; pony* 



»■•■ 



THE SHADOW IN THE DUSK 35 

But the hail beat upon his blanketed back and 
shoulders like bird-shot. He was cold, partly wet, 
miserable physically, bnt he would not complain, 
although several of the men whose characters as 
plainsmen were already established, did not hesitate 
to grumble. 

While the hail was still falling, they heard a 
rumble, and saw a dark, moving mass to the right 
of them, but several hundred yards away. It was 
a buffalo herd stampeded by the storm and fleeing 
before it. Bob was glad they were not in the path 
of the mighty beasts, whose numbers ran into the 
scores of thousands. They were over an hour in 
passing, and their line extended further than he 
could see. For the fuU hour their hoofs kept up a 
steady rolling thunder. 

When they were gone Sam Strong looked signi- 
ficantly at Bill Cole, and Bill Cole gave back the 
same significant look. 

**BVightened by the storm," said Sam, *'but some- 
thing else may have been after them, too." 

"Cheyennes been huntin' them most likely." 

**I'm hopin' for the best, but I guess you're right. 
The hail is about stopping an' we^l move on again." 

The hail ceased entirely in five minutes, the clouds 
marched away in battalions, and a brilliant sun 
b^an to pour down warmth. All the hail quickly 
melted, and the earth would soon be drying. The 
men threw off their blankets, saddled their horses 
anew, and once more sped into the west. It was 
Strong's idea to travel in a course exactly opposite 
to that taken by the buffalo herd, in order that the 



36 HOESEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

distance between them might widen as fast as 
possible. 

The day seemed bent on atoning for the storm in 
its early hours. Not a single cloud was left in the 
sky. It was a vast arch of blue, shot with the gold 
of the sun, and the wind, which now came from the 
south, was laden with warmth. The earth, drying 
fast, showed new green where the bunch grass was 
appearing. 

All of them recovered their spirits, and the two 
soldiers, in the utmost friendliness, began to whistle 
*' Dixie" together. Several of the horses raised 
their heads and neighed, showing that they, too, 
appreciated the change. 

**Here we are, all right and not a Cheyenne in 
sight, ' ' said Louis Perolet. * * Our General Sam 
Strong ees like ze great Napoleon. He lead us out 
of danger every time." 

** Don't you bank too much on that, Frenchy," 
said Sam. **The time may come when you'll have 
to fight your way out of danger, or stay in it." 

Beyond a doubt Strong was still anxious, and his 
apprehension was reflected in the face of Bill Cole, 
the next best plainsman, and second in command. 
Both of them looked anxiously for hilly country in 
which they could escape observation, but there was 
no promise of it. In fact, it could not be expected, 
unless they cut across the course of some consider- 
able stream. 

*'I'm hopin' for the best," said Sam Strong, '*but 
the bands of Cheyennes are certainly somewhere 
about, an' maybe old Eoman Nose himself is near. 






THE SHADOW IN THE DUSK 37 

I think we'd better turn south. I know of a stream 
that we'll strike ten or fifteen miles from here, an' 
we can travel in its bed where we won't be seen." 

**Like ze great Napoleon who use everything, the 
earth eetself, to help him," said Louis Perolet, 
admiringly. 

They rode rapidly on their new course, and, in 
a half hour, they saw far to the north of them a thin 
column of smoke, rising into the heavens like a 
spire. Presently another rose to the same height, 
but several miles to the eastward. 

**Cheyennes talkin' again, an' now they are 
talkin' in the day time," said Sam Strong. *'The 
sooner we hit that creek bottom the better. ' ' 

They reached it in about an' hour, a wide, sandy 
bed with a depth of about five feet or so and a width 
of thirty or forty feet, a narrow stream of cold 
water flowing down the center. 

They led the horses into the channel, although 
they were reluctant, having some fear of the sand, 
and then all dismounted. 

"We're hidden here from anybody at a distance," 
said Sam Strong, **an' now we'll go down stream, 
leadin' our horses, an' lookin' out for quicksands." 

It was not the best method of traveling, but it was 
the safest, and they trudged along in the shadow 
of the banks until nightfall, several times narrowly 
escaping the quicksands. 

Sam Strong breathed a mighty sigh of relief 
wHen the darkness came, and then every one in his 
torn breathed a similar sigh. They emerged from 
the shelter of the stream into a pleasant little valley. 



38 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

where oaks as well as cottonwoods grew. They 
secured their horses with lariats to the trees and 
bushes, not hobbling any of them, as they might 
wish, at any moment, to make a speedy flight. 

They ate cold food in the dark, and Bob slept 
through the first watch. He was awakened abont 
one in the morning to relieve Perolet, and had as 
his comrade Bill Cole, who had relieved Sam Strong. 

Bill took the northern side of the camp, and most 
of the time walked back and forth in a semicircle. 
Bob had the semicircle on the south, and they met 
at each side of the circle which the two made com- 
plete. Then they would exchange a word or two 
in a whisper and pass on. 

Bob felt his responsibility, and he appreciated 
to the full the great trust that these men put in him. 
Throughout their journey and flight he had watched 
the plainsmen, studying their craft and precaution, 
and now he imitated them. He felt the fine rifle 
that he had inherited from his father, and saw that 
the cartridges were slipped in just right. He loos- 
ened the pistol in his belt that it, too, might be ready 
on instant call. And he was careful as he stepped 
to make no noise whatever. It had become a matter 
of pride with him that no footfall should be audible, 
and that no one should hear him brushing against 
the bushes. 

The night was peaceful. The wind did not keep 
up its usual moaning across the swells, and the 
branches of the oaks and cottonwoods were still. 
The horses seemed to be at rest. Bob apprehended 
no danger, but he was glad whenever he and Bill 



.** 



THE SHADOW IN THE DUSK 39 

Cole met. The gaunt but friendly face of the 
trapper cheered him, and the few words that he 
spoke were a comfort to him in his loneliness. 

Two hours passed and it seemed to Bob that the 
watch might well be rel^Lxed. The stars twinkled 
and danced in the most friendly fashion, and the 
wind was yet still. He met Bill Cole, they exchanged 
the usual friendly word or two and the boy passed 
on, describing the southern arc of the circle. His 
path led through the thickest clump of oaks, and just 
beyond them in a close group were the horses. 

Bob's eyes, good at any time, had become used to 
the darkness, and he could see very well. He saw 
clearly the outlines of the horses, nearly all of them 
lying down, but two standing on the side nearest to 
him. A peculiar spell or intuition caused him to 
remain there, well hidden in the clump of trees, and 
look at the horses, especially the two that were 
standing. 

One of the horses raised his head with a quick, 
jerking motion, and at the same time the other 
stamped with restless foot. Both motions seemed 
unusual to the boy, and he leaned a little forward, 
staring with all the power of his eyes. Was it a 
shadow that he saw just beyond the first horse 1 and 
if a shadow, was it caused by a bough or trunk of 
a tree? 

Bob's heart rose up in his throat. The feeling 
assailed him with overwhelming power that here 
was an alien presence. His hands clasped his rifle 
lightly, and it was cold to his touch. He trembled 
ever so slightly, and then was quite still. He knew 



»i ■ . ■ 



40 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

his responsibility and accepted it. He must save 
his comrades as well as himself. The danger 
was here on his side of the circle, and he would 
detect it. 

The boy took a step forward, holding his rifle in 
front of him, but he was yet hidden in the cluster 
of oaks. There had been no sound since the stamp- 
ing of the uneasy hoof, but now one of the horses 
moved again, and Bob believed that he heard a soft 
hiss, so very soft that it was scarcely more than the 
whisper of the wind in the grass. 

But he knew. He had heard it. It was not 
fancy. He sprang forward and a shadow appeared 
from behind the horse, the shadow of an Indian, 
fully armed and in all the panoply of war-paint. 
The warrior with a sweep of his knife cut the lariat 
of the horse, struck him on the side, and uttered a 
loud, thrilling shout. Bob fired at the same instant 
and cried, *'XJp! up! the Cheyennes have cornel'* 

Bill Cole rushed down from the northern segment 
of the circle, Sam Strong was on his feet in a 
moment, thoroughly alive and awake, and the others 
were but little behind. The center of the trouble 
was obvious at once. 

*'Look out for the horses 1'* cried Strong and 
Cole together. **They are tryin' to stampede 'em.'* 

Bob sprang forward, seized a flying lariat and 
checked the impending flight of a pony. The two 
soldiers hurled themselves into the group, and they 
seemed to be all hands, grasping at least a half 
dozen ropes. Louis Perolet was just behind them, 
calling upon the name of the great Napoleon as Ms 



j,« 



THE SHADOW IN THE DUSK 41 

patron in war, and, at the same time, acting with 
speed and decision. 

Strong and Cole ran toward the edge of the grove 
and fired twice each. Scattering shots came in 
reply, and then the long, fierce yell of the Cheyennes, 
which the plain beyond took up, and then sent back 
in a qnavering under note, like the savage whine of 
some wild beast. 

But the cry was not repeated, and there was no 
other sound in the grove just then but that of the 
struggling horses. These, too, were soon reduced 
to silence, and, although they stood quivering, they 
made no further eflfort to get away. Not one had 
escaped, so quick and resourceful had been the 
trappers, although the lariats of half of them had 
been cut. Across the shoulder of one of them was 
a long, red streak, where the Cheyenne had drawn 
his knife in order to add pain to fright. Sam 
Strong growled deep when he saw it. . 

**I try to think the best of people,'* he said, *'but 
I'd like to get hold of the Cheyenne who did that.'* 
He walked to the edge of the grove, took a long look, 
came back and said : 

**You saved us. Bob, my boy, an* we didn't make 
any mistake when we picked you up. The Chey- 
ennes, the ugly snakes, came on your side and you 
saw *em in time. If they'd stampeded the horses 
we wouldn't have been much better oflf than sailors 
in a sea without a boat." 

Bob flushed in the darkness with pride. It was, 
as Louis Perolet would have said, like having the 
approval of the great Napoleon, and he was ready, 



42 HOESEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

at that very minute, to lay down his life for his 
leader, Sam Strong. But he said nothing, as Strong 
was already in conference with Bill Cole. Instead 
he stood guard by the horses, holding three lariats 
in one hand, and his rifle in the other. 

Strong and Cole, masters of all the wiles and arts 
of Ihe plains, considered their situation extremely 
dangerous. So far, only one Cheyenne had been 
seen clearly, but many more were probably near. 
Strong had no mind to be besieged in the grove. 
They were largely hidden by the trees at night, but 
by day it would be a different matter when the 
Cheyenne sharpshooters swarmed on every side of 
it. They must steal away now, not so difficult, per- 
haps, for the men to do« but the horses would make 
noise. 

**It*s got to be tried, though,'* said Strong, in 
a grim whisper, *'an' Tom, maybe you an' Porter 
will have a chance to be in a better fight than the 
one at Gettysburg you talk so much about.'' 

** Suppose we go back into the creek bed," said 
Obadiah Pirtle. 

**We might be penned up there." 

''If we were we could shoot from the shelter of 
the banks, an' if they ain't watchin' close on that 
side, it'll give us the better chance to get away 
unseen." 

The plan carried and they began to move, leading 
the horses slowly and very cautiously. Fortu- 
nately it had turned a little darker, the moon being 
gone, and many of the stars ceasing to twinkle, 
and there was a chance that their movements would 



■ I ■ •■« 



THE SHADOW IN THE DUSK 43 

be completely hidden by the oaks and cottonwoods. 

Strong and Cole stayed fifteen or twenty yards in 
the rear^ and Bob was at the head of the troop, by 
the side of the Maine man. It was a hundred yards 
to the bed of the creek, but it seemed a mile to the 
boy. His head was throbbing with excitement, and 
the soft footfall of the horses fell on his ears like 
thunder. He heard a rifle-shot behind him, and the 
horses jerked on the lariats. A second shot fol- 
lowed and then several more. 

"Keep movin*,'* whispered Obadiah Pirtle. 
**They Ve sent scouts forward, an' Sam an' Bill are 
drivin' 'em back. It's all right. It'll make them 
Cheyennes think we're stiU stayin' in the grove. 
There's the creek bank." 

They led the horses down with the greatest 
caution, and luckily none of them slipped. Then 
they paused, huddled close together in the thick 
shadow of the bank, and Strong and Cole leaped 
lightly down beside them. 

"I think I nicked the shoulder of a warrior," 
whispered Strong, "an' they are likely to be cau- 
tious. They won't find out that we've gone for a 
half hour yet, an' that half hour will be worth an 
ordinary year to us." 

They advanced southward, the soft sand drown- 
ing the tread of the horses. Ten minutes passed 
and they heard no alarm. Fifteen minutes and yet 
there was none. Twenty came, and Strong led 
them out of the sand upon the hard plain. 

"We can mount an' gallop for it now," he said. 
**0f course, when daylight comes they'll find our 






44 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

tracks in the sand, but we'll have a good start then, 
an ' we may stave 'em oflf . ' ' 

Bob, his heart exulting, sprang into the saddle. 
It seemed to him that they had already made their 
escape complete, and he settled himself firmly, while 
he waited for Sam Strong to give the word of com- 
mand. In the few seconds of pause a long cry, 
piercing and full of anger, came from the grove 
that they had left. 

'* They've stalked the place, found out that we've 
gone and they're mad about it," said the leader. 
**Now boys, hold firm to the lariats of your led 
horses, and away we go." 

All swung into a gallop, and in a group they 
swept toward the southwest. Bob felt the cold 
night air rushing past him, and before him he saw 
only a misty, undulating world. He did not know 
where he was going, but all the little pulses in his 
head were throbbing with excitement, and he had 
unbounded confidence in these brave comrades of 
his. The men seldom spoke. The wiry mustangs 
seemed to show no weariness, and mile after mile 
fell behind them. 

Just before day they stopped, changed the packs 
on seven of the horses, and took fresh mounts. 
Then they increased their speed somewhat, but soon 
the great red sun sailed out of the east, and the 
dazzling morning came. They stopped their flight 
and looked back. The keenest eye could discern 
nothing on the plain. It merely rolled away, in 
swell after swell, touched lightly with the green of 
early spring. 



I A 



•tl—l 



THE SHADOW IN THE DUSK 45 

''We've shaken 'em off,'' said Bob, triumphantly, 
* * Those Cheyennes will never find us. ' ' 

But Sam Strong shook his head. 

"I'm always hopin' for the best," he said, "but 
when Indian warriors want your scalp, an' want it 
real bad, you don't shake 'em off so easy. I'm jest 
tellin' you this, so you won't be disappointed if 
somethin' happens." 

It did not seem possible to Bob, The plain was 
so empty; and surely the warriors could not trail 
them fast enough to overtake them. Strong 
announced that they must rest a while, whether or 
not the Indians still pursued. It would not do for 
them to be overtaken when their horses were broken 
down, and all dismounting, they sat upon the 
ground. The horses began to nibble the young 
grass, and they, at least, were content. 

"What do you think of it. Bill?" asked Strong. 

* * Six of one an ' a half dozen of the other, ' ' replied 
Cole. "They may ketch us, or they may not, but, 
if they do ketch us, I'm thinkin' that they'll have 
a hard time to hold us." 

"We have come for the trappin', but, eef we 
must, we'll do the fightin', too," said the valiant 
Louis Perolet. "The great Napoleon not fight 
until the time come, but then he fight most terrible." 

' * Seven Napoleons, like ourselves, can make things 
hum," said Obadiah Pirtle, dryly. 

They rested about three quarters of an hour, and 
Bob noted that the day was going to be one of the 
most brilliant that he had ever seen. The air was 
absolutely transparent, and distant objects came 



'm 



ik.r. 



46 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

very near. It was this effect that caused Sam 
Strong, just as they remounted, to notice dim, mov- 
ing specks under the horizon. He took a second 
glance in order to be sure, and then he announced 
quite calmly: 

**Boys, the Cheyennes have followed our trail. 
See *em comin\** 

His long forefinger pointed them out. 

** Louis,*' he said, **I think you can soon prove 
that you're another Napoleon, an' Tom, you an' 
Porter can fight Gettysburg all over again, but 
you've got to be on the same side now." 






>'■ 



CHAPTEB IV 
THE DOG SOLDIERS 

Strong, like a good general, sought a field of battle 
to his liking, and he observed a slight, sandy eleva- 
tion in the plain, a few hundred yards further on. 
The sandy nature of the hill caused him to hope for 
something else, and, when they reached it, his hopes 
were fulfilled. 

The hill had a slight crater, and in this crater 
were a dozen deep buffalo wallows, where the herds 
had rolled and scratched themselves for generations 
against the grateful sand. 

"It's a fort I A real fort I'* exclaimed Strong, 
joyfully. "Well stand 'em off here I'' 

"He ees the great Napoleon,'' said Perolet, 
admiringly. * * He has found the best place to fight. ' ' 

They rode the horses into the buffalo wallows, 
tethered them together, and then took their own 
position in the deepest of all the depressions. They 
were so well protected that only the head of an 
animal showed now and then over the hill. 

"Makes me think of Little Bound Top at Gettys- 
burg," said Tom Harris. 

"If it hadn't been for that blamed hill we'd have 
beat you," said Porter Evans. 

"See how fast they come!" said Strong, pointing 
toward the eastern horizon, "an' there's a lot of 
*em, too." 

47 




-^"vw 



48 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

Bob was by the leader, and he was tall enough, 
standing at his full height, to see over the crest of 
the hill. Now the wild horsemen of the plains were 
in full sight, fifty or sixty strong, galloping straight 
toward the hill. 

''They make a fine sight,'' said Sam Strong, 
impartially. ''Them must be the Dog Soldiers.'' 

"Dog Soldiers!" said Bob, "what does that 
mean ! ' ' 

"The Cheyenne warriors are divided into bands 
like societies, and the band that comes first is the 
Dog Soldiers — Hotamitaneo is their Indian name. 
They generally lead the battle, and they are most 
to be dreaded. They picked up our trail somehow, 
an' I reckon they think our goose is cooked." 

Strong pressed his lips tightly together, and his 
blue eyes were full of resolute fire. It was evident 
that if the Cheyennes thought their "goose was 
cooked," he did not. 

The approach of the warriors on their trained 
mustangs was spirited, and not without poetry. 
They were still far away. Only the extreme purity 
and thinness of the air made them seem near. But 
Bob saw the feathers in their hair waving, and the 
short rifles in their hands. They rode without 
reins, letting them fall free if they had them, and 
urged on their horses with a pressure of the knee. 

They formed a line, curving slightly outward, and 
the horses were eight or ten feet apart. They were 
coming at a full gallop, but, when they were within 
a third of a mile, every man raised his rifle in his 
right hand above his head, as if by signal, and 



.1 



THE DOG SOLDIERS 49 

altogether uttered their war-whoop, a long thrilling 
cry that was repeated in echoes across the plain. 
Then they filed suddenly to the right like cavalry 
men, trained at drill, each horse keeping his regular 
place, and they galloped about the hill, at a uniform 
distance of a third of a mile. 

'^It's the Dog Soldiers sure enough,'* said Sam 
Strong, "an* maybe old Eoman Nose himself is 
there. How do you feel Bobf 

"I feel that we can beat *em,** replied the boy 
with spirit. 

"That's the way to talk,'' said Sam Strong. 
*' Still I wish that this hill which ain't much of a 
hill after all, was higher an' that these wallows 
were deeper. But Fm hopin' for the best." 

Bob, in spite of the fact that they sought his life, 
had admiration for the Cheyennes, who rode about 
them with savage grace, their sinuous brown forms 
shining in the crystal air. They stopped presently, 
and, some of them dismototing, walked near their 
horses, seeming to ignore the presence of any 
enemy. 

"They're tryin' to show us how little they think 
of us," said Sam Strong. "They're pretendin' that 
they've nothin' to do when they get good an' ready, 
but ride right over us. It's an Indian's way. He 
wants to rub it in before he sends you to the happy 
huntin' grounds." 

The Cheyennes took no action for at least half an 
hour, sitting their horses or walking about the plain 
as if they had all the time in the world. It was 
Bob's guess that they wished to worry the besieged, 

4 



50 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

and make their nerves unsteady, and probably lie 
was right. But he was soon to see the methods of 
Indian warfare, as usually practised on the plains. 

** They '11 be feelin' for us in a few more minutes,*' 
said Sam Strong. 

A dozen warriors, mounted on fine ponies, rode 
out a little distance from the group and began to 
gallop up and down, and these men carried lances, 
as well as rifles, which they shook in a threatening 
way at the little white band. They began to shout 
also — cries of many kinds. 

**Do you know what they're saying?" asked Bob 
of the leader. 

**I can understand some Cheyenne,'' replied the 
leader, **an' I ketch a word here an' there, enough 
to tell me what they mean, an' they're sayin' to us, 
Bob, that we're mean, low down, cowardly white 
people, that we're thieves, robbers, skunks, coyotes, 
that our grandmothers an' grandfathers ain't what 
they ought to be, an' that our grandsons an' grand- 
daughters, if we should live to have any, which we 
won't, would be worse, an' they say that we've liv%d 
as long as we ought to, or are goin' to, an' they're 
promisin' to dissect us most beautiful, an' then to 
have the precious remnants scattered wide among 
the tribes. These are a few of the things they; 're 
sayin' about us, but don't you be scared. Bob; most 
of them descriptions ain't true, an' not many of 
them promises will come to pass." 

**I'm not scared," replied Bob, stoutly. 

He told the truth. The situation had not yet 
impressed him with the full sense of danger. Jt 






Jfltt 



THE DOG SOLDIERS 51 

was too imreal, too much like a play, a great spec- 
tacle of the open air. The gentle wind of the 
morning was merely the breath of peace. The 
brandishing of the lances added color and life to 
the scene, and while the shouts of the warriors 
might contain taunts, they came musically at the 
distance. 

The galloping warriors presently cast their lances 
from them, and came closer. The speed of their 
horses increased, and the riders lay flat upon the 
backs and necks of their mounts. 

**Keep close all!'' suddenly shouted Strong in 
sharp warning. Even as he spoke he pulled Bob 
down, and the others ducked. 

Four Cheyennes had suddenly dropped down on 
the far side of their horses, and fired under the 
necks, leaving only a clinging hand and foot exposed, 
targets too small for the distance. Two bullets 
sang over the heads of the crouching trappers, and 
two more buried themselves, with a nasty little spit, 
in the sand bank. 

The prologue was over. The play had begun in 
real and deadly earnest. Bob saw it and knew it. 
Sam Strong's eyes narrowed. 

** That's an old trick of theirs,'* he said, **to shoot 
from the other side of the horse, an ' under his neck, 
an' it's worked often with greenhorns, but we know 
a trick or two ourselves, don't we. Bill?" 

"Beckon we do," answered the saturnine MiS' 
sourian. 

More bullets made the sand fly up about them. 

"Take the first horse. Bill," said Sam. 



52 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

**I hate to do it, but I'll get him/* said the 
Missourian. 

The shouting warriors swung a few yards nearer. 
The Missourian rested the barrel of his rifle on the 
sandy bank, aimed with great care, and pulled the 
trigger. The sharp report, and the rising puff of 
white smoke followed. The foremost pony made a 
half leap in the air, and then ploughed forward, 
falling upon his side. The Indian, who had been 
hanging to his far side, sprang clear, alighting on 
agile feet, but at that instant Sam Strong, too, 
pulled the trigger. 

The deadly bullet sped, and the warrior, his pro- 
tection of the living pony taken from him, fell prone 
upon the plain and lay still. A shout of rage came 
from the other Cheyennes, but now they galloped 
away from the hill instead of toward it. 

** People have got to pay for their fun,** said 
Sam Strong, as he reloaded. **I think that a lot 
of foolishness is over. At least I'm hopin* for the 
best.** 

The retiring Cheyennes fired several shots, but 
all of them fell short, and then two, riding with their 
ponies between them and the hill, began to approach 
the dead warrior. 

*'They come for their slain comrade," said 
Perolet. 

''That's so, Frenchy,'* said Strong, "an* while 
they're doin' it we won't fire on 'em.** 

The two warriors cautiously approached the fallen 
figure, but as no bullet came, they seemed to feel 
that they were safe in their task. They leaped 



.s.. "^^ 



THE DOG SOLDIERS 53 

doiim, qxiickly lifted the body across one of the 
ponies, remounted as quickly and galloped away. 

*^I wonder if they feel any gratitude because we 
didn't shoot at them/' said Bob. 

**'Tain't likely that we'll ever know,'' replied 
Strong. 

The Cheyennes, now out of rifle range, gathered 
in a group, and seemed to take counsel. Meanwhile, 
the defenders waited patiently. 

** Makes me think of the time when we stood on 
the ridge at Gettysburg, while Pickett and his men 
were gettin' ready to charge," said Harris. 

*'I saw 'em go," rejoined Porter Evans, '^an' if 
there had been more of them Virginians you wouldn't 
be here, Tom Harris." 

** Thought that war was finished," said Obadiah 
Pirtle. ** Seems it's ragin' 'bout as bad as our own 
with the Cheyennes." 

Sam Strong took food out of their packs, jerked 
buffalo meat principally, and gave a share to every 
one. Then he showed his method and his coolness 
under fire. Buffalo * ^chips'' were lying about near 
the wallows, and, throwing several of them together, 
he lighted a fire on which Perolet boiled coffee. 

''Tastes good, Bob, my boy, don't it!" he said. 

"Fine," replied the boy, drinking two cups. 

*'The great Napoleon say that an army crawl on 
eets stomach," said Perolet, ''an' he ees right, as 
always. It fight on eets stomach, too." 

A long time passed without any further hostilities 
from the Cheyennes, and it was very trying. Spring 
seemed to have melted suddenly into summer, and 






54 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

a great sun, poised in the center of the heavens, 
poured down millions of fiery rays. It grew 
extremely hot in the shallow depressions, and they 
felt the want of water. The horses, too, moved 
restlessly, and had to be quieted now and then. 
Bob's lips became parched and his tongue lay hot 
and dry in Ms mouth. 

**What do you think will be their next move, 
Samf asked Porter Evans. 

**Hard to say,'* replied Strong, **but most likely 
a charge. There are no clouds, and no promise of 
a dark night, so they can't creep up on us without 
our seein' 'em. My eyes, but it's hot I" 

They had water in canteens, and every man took 
a sip, but there was none for the horses. Bob 
being so young, and not yet toughened by expe- 
rience, suffered the most. But he refused to com- 
plain. It seemed to him that the hot air was 
burning into his brain, but he lay with his face 
pressed against the sandy bank, and said never a 
word. 

The boy held his rifle in both hands, and the barrel 
of it was hot to his touch. All the time he was 
staring out upon the plain at the group of Cheyenne 
warriors. The heat rose in waves and shimmered 
before his eyes. By and by the figures of the 
Cheyennes, some on horse and some on foot, moved 
further away, and became unreal. Millions of black 
specks danced before his eyes, and the tint of the 
air was blood red. 

''Here, boy, take a drink of this I" exclaimed Sam 
Strong. 



^J 



THE DOG SOLDIERS 55 

The sharp voice of the leader called the boy back 
to earthy and he drank mechanically from a little 
flask that Strong held to his mouth. It was unpleas- 
ant, burning stuff, but his mind and brain cleared 
instantly. 

**Too much strain an* too much sun,** said Sam. 
'^ Shake yourself up a bit, Bob I EoU around in 
that wallow, if you want to, while the rest of us 
watch. * * 

The boy did rise and walk about a little, shaking 
his head, as if he would clear away the mists and 
vapors, and flexing his muscles. In a few minutes 
he felt much better. 

"It's pretty hard on a new hand,** said Porter 
Evans. *'The terriblest thing about the Civil War 
was always the long waitin*, lyin* on the ground, 
before we marched up an* whipped the Yankees.** 

"You never — ** began Harris, indignantly, but 
Sam Strong raised his hand wamingly. 

* * Stop that old, dead war, boys, * * he said. * ' Here *s 
our live one. The Cheyennes are about to move, I 
think. See *em spreadin* out.** 

Bob ran back to the bank. He could look now 
with clear eyes and a clear head, and once more the 
figures of the warriors were sharp, distinct and 
real. They were dividing into three bands. One 
remained where it was, and the others filed to right 
and left. 

"They mean to charge from all sides,** muttered 
Sam Strong, "an* with this poor place to fight 
behind, it*s only a matter of how much they'll 
stand.** 



56 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

He posted his men in a thin circle about the hill, 
cautioning them all to lie deep in the wallows. He di- 
vided their little territory into two half circles, with 
himself in command of .the northern half, and Bill 
Cole in charge of the southern. He had Bob and 
Obadiah Pirtle with him and Bill took the other three. 

*'Now, Bob,'' he said, ^'youVe heard Porter an' 
Tom talkin' about all them big fights east of the 
Missip, in the Civil War, but this is our own special 
scrap, an' you want to take partic'lar notice of the 
order of battle which will be somethin' like this: 
they'll come on in three bands, jumpin' their ponies 
from side to side, screechin' an' yellin' somethin' 
terrible. But don't you be flustered, an' don't you 
fire too soon. They'll be dodgin' behind the necks 
an' sides of their horses an' plunkin' bullets into 
our hill here, but jest you wait, an' when you get a 
good thing to aim at, hit it." 

The three bands of Cheyennes hovered a while 
just out of range. The sun was growing more 
intense than ever, and the heat floated in waves 
across the plains. 

Bob heard a Cheyenne who wore a great feather 
head-dress, a magnificent war-bonnet, utter a long, 
thrilling whoop, which was taken up, before it died, 
by the others. Then the three bands charged their 
horses at the hill. But they did not come on 
straight and direct, like white men. Instead, they 
made their ponies career from side to side. They 
never ceased to shout their war-cries, and often beat 
with lances upon the heavy buffalo skin shields that 
many of them carried. 



^ ^ 



THE DOG SOLDIERS 57 

Some of the exhibitions of horsemanship were 
splendid. A warrior, hanging it seemed by his foot 
only, wonld fire nnder his horse's neck, and the 
bullet always struck near the defenders. The blood 
began to surge to Bob's head, and his finger crept 
down toward the trigger of his rifle. The Chey- 
ennes were yet at long range, but the temptation to 
fire was overwhelming. A bullet sang a little song 
within two inches of his nose. The blood flew to 
his head, and his finger touched the trigger. But 
the firm hand of Sam Strong pulled it away. 

**Jest a little longer, Bob,'' he said; **I know it's 
hard to wait, but we can't waste lead. They'll be 
near enough mighty soon now." 

The weird shouting grew louder, and the rifles 
of the Cheyennes began to crack fast. Gusts of 
smoke rose and floated about the plain, and Bob 
distinctly heard the trampling hoofs as the Chey- 
ennes drew nearer. It was well now that they had 
the buffalo wallows in which to crouch. A bullet 
grazed Bill Cole's head and another nipped Porter 
Evans's arm. But neither man made any outcry. 

The shouting of the Cheyennes ceased quite sud- 
denly, and then a single cry arose. It was the signal 
of the chief who wore the great feather head-dress, 
and, when they heard it, the warriors of all three 
divisions ceased their gyrations, and made straight 
at the little white band, every man bent down almost 
flat upon the neck of his horse. 

"Now, Bob," exclaimed Sam Strong, **pick your 
man an^ let him have it!" 

The boy saw through a red mist, but he aimed at 



58 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

a coppery face, just showing over the head of a 
mustang, and pulled the trigger. Then he saw the 
mustang galloping away riderless, and he felt, with 
a kind of a shuddering horror, that he had not 
missed. But that feeling quickly passed, and was 
succeeded by another. The desire of combat took 
hold of him. He lifted his rifle and fired again and 
then again. 

All around the circle the rifles of his comrades 
were flashing, and they were fired by men who knew 
how to aim true. The ])og Boldiers, most valiant 
of the Cheyennes, faced a rain of bullets. Both 
men and ponies were down, and confusion seized 
them. They had not expected a fire so fast and 
deadly, and the rising cloud of smoke caused them 
to gallop into each other, adding to the confusion. 

Ponies, wounded or frightened, reared, threw 
their riders and galloped over the plain. Others, 
made riderless by bullets, followed them, and then, 
above the sound of the shots and the shouting, rose 
the clear, high-pitched cry of the chief. He was 
calling his men away when they were yet thirty 
yards from the wallows, and the Oheyennes were 
admitting repulse. 

The warriors, lifting their dead upon the ponies, 
fled across the plain, and out of rifle-shot. The 
defenders turned to their own wounds or needs, all 
except the valiant little Frenchman, Louis Perolet, 
who stepped out of his wallow and called after them: 

'* Ah, you rod Indian I You have start to us. Then 
why you not comet We have the banquet ready. But 
you stop when you half way an' go back. Then we 



THE DOG SOLDIERS 59 

invite you the second time. We treat yon most hos- 
peetable. Or ees eet that yon have enough already 1 ^ * 

He waited for an answer, and, as none came, he 
grew more bitterly sarcastic. 

^'Ees it that the famous Dog Soldiers of the 
Cheyennes, of whom the whole world has heard, are 
afraid of our guns f Do you retreat when the battle 
has just begun f It was not the way of the great 
Napoleon. He would go to the feenish, an* the 
feenish with him was victory.'* 

*'Set down there, Frenchy,** called Sam Strong. 
"One of them fellers might reach you yet with a 
bullet.** 

**Then I die in a grand cause,** rejoined Perolet. 

But he came back to the wallow and at once began 
a congenial task. 

**I still remember the saying of the great Napo- 
leon that an army fights on eets stomach,** he said, 
"an* now I feex the stomach while we rest between 
the mighty battles.** 

Several buffalo chips were left. In five minutes 
they were lighted and the coffee was boiling over 
them. Bob could not eat much, but he found the 
coffee soothing, and he was very grateful that they 
had escaped so well. Nobody on their side was 
killed. Three had received slight wounds to which, 
after the manner of veteran plainsmen, they paid 
no further attention when they had been bandaged. 
But several of the choice Dog Soldiers of the Chey- 
ennes had been slain, others were severely wounded, 
and the first combat had been clearly in favor of 
the little band in the buffalo wallows. 



60 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

*'Wliat do you make of it, Billf asked Sam 
Strong, looking attentively at the Cheyennes. 

**NothinV* replied Cole, **'eept that theyVe had 
enough of rushin* us for the time, an* mean to 
waif 

**I size it up the same way. Wish we had a 
stream of nice fresh water runnin' at our feet. Bill.** 

Strong looked uneasily at the horses, which were 
shuffing about restlessly. Only the fact that they 
were roped together had held them during the firing. 

'^It's so,** said Bill Cole. **They*ll want water 
tre-men-jeous bad before long. We've got enough 
to last ourselves three or four days, but none for 
them.'* 

Sam Strong did not answer, but looked up at the 
blue sky, in which some great, black birds were now 
wheeling on slow wing. Staunch hunter and bor- 
derer though he was, he hated the sight of those 
birds, and they gave him a little shudder. But he 
would not let the feeling go far. He summoned up 
all the courage of his brave hearty and, in his own 
language, resolutely hoped for the best. 

* * Think you could sleep a while, Bob ! * * he said in 
his most kindly tone to the boy. 

'* Sleep!" exclaimed the boy, *^why how could I 
at such a time ? ' * 

'* Sleep, of course you can!** exclaimed Tom 
Harris. **Why, I slept a full hour at Antietam, 
jest before we made the last charge that licked the 
rebels, an* I was right in front of that charge, too.** 

*'You didn*t lick us at Antietam,** exclaimed 
Porter Evans, indignantly. ^*We licked you till we 



THE DOG SOLDIERS 

got tired, an* then we walked away, leavin* to you 
the ground that we didn't want any longer/* 

** Never you mind these two bull dogs, Bob,*' said 
Sam Strong. * * They make me think of a fat fellow 
in a play by Shakespeare that I saw in St. Louis 
once, though I admit that Tom and Porter here are 
good men in a scrap when it comes off. Now, Bob, 
you just try to sleep. You'll be surprised how easy 
it'll come, an' it'll do you a lot of good. If the 
Cheyennes come up here an' have an engagement 
with us we'll wake you up, don't worry." 

Bob concluded to try it. It seemed to him the 
part of a veteran campaigner, and he wanted to do 
the proper thing. He lay down in one of the wal- 
lows, put his folded blanket under his head, and then 
his cap over his eyes to shade them from the light. 

It was a little after noon, and the sun was amaz- 
ingly bright and hot. From under the edge of his 
cap brim the boy saw the heat waves rolling up 
again. He also saw wheeling in the heavens the 
same great, black birds that Sam Strong had 
noticed, but he did not draw the same inference 
from them. They were birds to him, and nothing 
more. 

Bob, still resolute to do what a veteran should do, 
exerted all the power of his will over his muscles 
and senses. He lay perfectly still, and tried to 
imagine that he was in a bed, and that no danger 
was near. Circumstances helped him. The camp 
grew quite quiet. The horses ceased their restless 
shuffle, the men sat quite still. Three of them had 
lighted pipes and were smoking. Bob, remembering 









62 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

his earlier youth, began to say the multiplication 
table to himself. It seemed so amusing to him that 
he should do such a thing, at such a time and place, 
that he laughed under his breath. 

The laugh was soothing. Gradually his pulses 
ceased to beat so strongly. The fever went from 
his brain, his whole figure relaxed and Sam Strong *s 
words were coming true. It was easier to sleep 
than he had thought. 

The wheeling birds became dim and were lost in 
the sky. The figures of his comrades sitting near 
him, and of the horses, floated off into space. His 
eyelids drooped, shut entirely, and there upon the 
great plain, fresh from the battle, with the Dog 
Soldiers of the Cheyennes yet about him, the over- 
taxed boy slept. His regular breathing ^oon rose, 
and was noticed by the men. Sam Strong walked 
to him and pulled the brim of his cap a little further 
over his eyes. 

**Good stuff, ain't hef he whispered, with some- 
thing of a father's tenderness in his tone. **We 
made no mistake when we picked up that Bob boy, 
did wef 

^*Not by a long sight,'' replied Bill Cole. "But 
he's got baptized mighty early. He's come right 
into the middle of a terrible hot thing." 

Bob slept soundly a long time, and he would have 
slept longer, but the hand of Sam Strong was on 
his arm, and a voice said in his ear : 

"Wake up. Bob, somethin's goin* to happen.** 

The boy sat up instantly, wide awake and grasp* 
ing his rifle with his hands. 






THE DOG SOLDIERS 63 

"Are the Cheyennes about to charge again t*' he 
asked. 

**No,'* replied Strong, **they*re not. Somethin' 
else is comin' into this little affair of ours. Look 
there, Bob. Look out into the east!*' 

The boy followed the long pointing finger, and 
beheld an inunense dark cloud that came on fast. 
But this cloud, although it banked against the 
horizon, was not of the air. It clung dose to the 
earth, and it filled the entire east. 

**1V& a buffalo herd,'' said Sam Strong, "an' 
most likely it's the same one that we had the run 
in with the other day. It's been wanderin' aroun' 
in search of grass, an' two to one its been scared 
ag'in by the Indian hunters. But, boys, whatever 
the cause, an' whatever be runnin' through them 
there heads of theirs, that buffalo herd, a million 
strong, has come just in time." 

**Why, how can it help us!" asked Bob. 

"It ain't meanin' to help us, but it will, an' it will 
help us a heap. Just you wait a few minutes, an' 
you will see." 

But by waiting Sam did not mean that the time 
should be spent in inactivity. He issued short, 
swift orders, and they were obeyed with the same 
speed. 

"Untie the horses!" he said. "Fix the packs! 
Look to your arms! Have everything ready to 
march at an instant's notice." 

Bob sprang to the work with the others. He led 
his own pony from one of the wallows, and he held 
the lariats of two more. Meanwhile, the mighty 



64 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

buffalo herd was still rapidly approaching. Sam 
was probably right in his surmise that it was the 
same herd that they had seen a few days before, 
but it seemed to have increased in numbers, perhaps 
others had joined it, and they could not see any- 
where a break in the dark line that spread from the 
northern horizon to the southern. 

*'It will carry everything before it,*' said Sam 
Strong. ** While I was hopin' for the best, the 
buffaloes have come an' saved us. Look, the Dog 
Soldiers are tryin' to shoot a way through them/' 

The Cheyennes, all mounted now and in solid 
mass, were firing into the herd with the evident 
purpose of making it break in half, and pass to 
right or left. Usually such an effort would have 
been a success, but this herd was so inunense, and 
it was driven on by such a powerful impulse, that 
the dark line remained unbroken, others closing up 
where their l3rethren had fallen. 

'^They'll have to run for it,'' said BiU Cole. 
**an' so will we." , 

''But we run willingly," said Sam Strong. 
''There, look! the Dog Soldiers have broke, an' see 
that long tongue of buffaloes streamin' by the side 
of 'em on the south. They've got to gallop to the 
north, an', boys, we'll gallop to the south, while 
a million buffaloes come in between. To your 
saddles!" 

Every one sprang upon his horse, holding firmly 
to the lariats of the led animals, and with Sam 
Strong at their head they galloped out of the wal- 
lows, turning due south. 






*■/-' 



THE DOG SOLDIERS 65 

Behind them the whole plain shook with the tread 
of the mightiest herd that Sam Strong had ever 
seen, pushing forward in irresistible columns 
between the Cheyennes and the little white band 
that they had regarded as their sure prey. Wider 
and wider grew the separating current, until a full 
five miles of buffaloes flowed between. 

Southward rode the comrades at a good pace, and 
they were joyous now. They knew it would be long 
before the Cheyennes could pick up their trail again, 
probably never, and they might regard themselves 
safe, at least for the time. Moreover, the sun was 
setting, the pleasant coolness of the twilight was 
coming, and the brisk air gave new life. 

Porter Evans suddenly began to laugh. 

"Now, what under the sun is the matter with you, 
you Johnny Eebf asked Tom Harris. 

**I was just thinkin', Tom, that while you an* me 
don't agree much about the Civil War, you claimin* 
that you whipped us, an' we knowin' that we jest 
eternally wore ourselves out whippin' you, that 
none of them big battles, in which you an' me was 
such important figgers, was ever stopped by a herd 
of wild cattle buttin' in between the two armies." 

"That's mighty true, even if it is the first true 
word that you've ever spoke about the Civil War, 
Port," said Harris. 

The sun went down like a plummet behind the 
hills, the twilight turned into the night, clear and 
cold, and Strong checked their speed. From the 
north came the faint rumble of the marching million. 

"The Cheyennes might as well try to ride their 

s 



66 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

< 

ponies across the Missouri in flood as get through 
that herd, * ' said Obadiah Pirtle. 

"Well spoke, Obe,'' said Strong, **an* bein* as 
the best that weVe been hopin' for has cofne to 
pass, we might walk our horses a while. *Pears to 
me what we need most now is water for our animals, 
an' we must keep on until we find it. Scratch your 
head, Bill, an' see if you can rec'lect any spot on 
this piece of land where it can be found.*' 

Bill Cole took the suggestion literally. He 
removed his cap and ran his finger nails thought- 
fully across his head. 

''I've hunted buffalo 'roun' here more'n once," 
he said, ''an' there is a sunk place where the water 
oozes out of the ground and makes a big pool that 
drains away into the plain, an' then is lost farther 
on. But it is tre-men-je-ously hard for me to locate 
it as there ain't no sign posts that I can see, an' I 
don't see no guide comin'." 

"Eub your head real hard, Monsieur Bill,'* said 
Louis Perolet, entreatingly. "It is massage. It 
make the brain act queeck, an' maybe it bring you 
the intelligence you need." 

"All right, Mossoo Looey," said Bill, good-na- 
turedly. "I'll do it. I guess it's what the great Na- 
poleon always did when he wasn 't sure about things. ' ' 

He rubbed his head with great vigor, and then 
spoke up triumphantly. 

"It does work, Frenchy," he said. "Now I 
remember. As certain as I'm sittin' here on top of 
this horse, that spring lies off there, the way my 
finger's p'intin'." 



ii 



TEE DOG SOLDIERS 87 

They rode without hesitation toward the south- 
west, where his finger pointed, and the further they 
went the more confident Bill became. In an hour 
the horse that he rode threw up his head and uttered 
a whinney of pleasure. 

'*That settles it,'* said Bill. **He smells water. 
Don't I know this horse of mine? Don't I know 
every neigh of hist He's got one for water, one 
for grass, one for feelin' good, another for feelin' 
bad, and so on. This is his water neigh, an' it's 
comin* straight from his heart." 

The other horses pricked up their heads also, and 
without urging increased their speed. Before long 
the ground softened a little, they saw ahead of them 
a thin fringe of trees, and then, shining between the 
trunks, a blessed silvery surface that they knew to 
be water. 

They rode straight into the pool, and every horse, 
standing with the water to his knees, drank deeply. 






CHAPTEE V 
THE SNOWY PASS 

Bob had never before in his life felt so deep a 
thrill of happiness. They had escaped from a 
great danger. He knew now how providential was 
the intervention of the buffalo herd, and they had 
found the water, without which they could not live, 
even after slipping from the grasp of the Cheyennes. 
He sat on his pony, and listened to its gurgling as 
the good beast drank. The same gurgling sound 
was all around him. 

'^I guess these horses of ours are plum glad," 
said Obadiah Pirtle, **an* it makes me glad to see 
'em glad." 

''Same here," said Sam Strong, ''but we mustn't, 
let 'em drink too much right at the start. Lead 
'em out of the pool, and we'll let 'em have another 
try at it in half an hour. ' ' 

The horses were ridden out of the water, although 
they required much urging, and then they sought 
a likely spot for a camp. The pool, which was on 
the southern side of a swell, steeper than usTlal in 
that region, was forty or fifty yards in diameter 
with an average depth of about three feet. At the 
southern edge was the outlet, a tiny brook that soon 
lost itself on the plain. To the right of the pool 
was a hollow, dry and well enclosed with cotton- 
woods. 

68 



jk 



THE SNOWY PASS 69 

'^Of course the Indians come here at times to 
drink and to water their horses, * * said Sam Strong, 
**but weVe got to risk that chance, an' camp here 
to-night, an* what's more, after all weVe been 
through have warm food and warm coflfee. What 
say you, Louis ! Are you ready to fix them for us f 

"Eef you keep off the rascally Cheyennes an* 
don't let them fire any bullets into my camp-kettle 
or coffee pot, I give you food and coffee that warm 
not only your body, but your soul, ' ' replied Perolet. 
**I am the great culinary arteest, an' it is at such 
times that I shine. The cook is greater when he 
cook under fire. What a great arteest the cook of 
the great Napoleon must have been ! ' ' 

Strong knew that the fire might serve as a guid- 
ing hand to the Indians, but he knew also the great 
value of warmth and comfort to his band. More- 
over, the danger could be minimized. They dug out 
a place in the soft side of the hill with one of the 
shovels that they carried in their packs, and then 
they filled in the space with dry fallen wood which 
they coaxed into a fire. The hole was like an oven 
and no breeze arose, but a great heat was thrown 
out. Soon a mass of coals was formed, and Perolet 
cooked food, and boiled coffee in abundance for 
them all. 

Bob felt an immense relief. The night was chill, 
but he had drawn a blanket about his shoulders, and 
sat with his face to the coals. He was very tired, 
but it was a happy weariness, and he thought that 
God had been very good to them. It seemed to him 
that, the buffalo herd had been sent to save them. 



70 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

**Sam,'* he asked, **do you think the Cheyennes 
will try to follow us again?** 

"Not that crowd, anyway. It will be too hard 
for them to pick up our trail a second time^ an* 
bein* at war with our people, they've got more 
important work to the eastward. Now, boys, we'll 
just smother up the rest of this fire, and most of us 
will go to sleep.** 

They threw earth on the coals, and, after secur- 
ing the horses, all lay down to sleep except Sam 
Strong and Louis Perolet. Bob secured a promise 
that he would be awakened for the second watch, 
saying that he ought to stand sentinel as he was 
the only one who had slept in the afternoon. 

The difference was very great, as he sought slum- 
ber for the second time in twelve hours. Then the 
hot sun was burning down upon him; now it was 
dark night, and the cold had come. But the heavy 
blanket, wrapped around him, fended oflf the chill, 
and made him feel all the snugger because of it. 

He did not linger long at the border of sleep, but 
the events of the day passed rapidly before him. 
Most vivid of all was the charge of the Cheyennes, 
and its confused and terrible medley of men and 
horses, of fire and shots and shouts. He saw the 
whole red picture before him again, then it passed 
like a shadow on a screen, and he fell quietly to 
sleep. 

But Bob did not stand sentinel any part of that 
night. About one o *clock in the morning, when the 
watch of Sam Strong and Louis Perolet was finished^ 
Sam looked down at the sleeping boy. There was 



THE SNOWY PASS 71 

not much light, but the eyes of the two were trained 
to darkness, and they could see Bob very well. 
Although breathing regularly and steadily, his face 
was quite white. He showed plainly to the expe- 
rienced men the terrible strain through which he 
had passed. 

"Am I going to wake him, Frenchy, for his turn 
of the watch?" asked Sam Strong in a low, almost 
solemn voice. 

**No, Meester Strong,'* replied Louis Perolet, 
**you are like the great Napoleon, who, finding the 
exhausted sentinel asleep, took the rifle from his 
unknowing hands, an' did the watching heemself." 

"Sometimes I think you're a great man, Louis," 
said Sam Strong. "You've read my mind most 
terrible exact. Now you wake up Obe, there, an' 
in an hour or two I'll make Bill take my place." 

When Bob awoke, the coffee was boiling again 
for breakfast, and they only laughed when he asked, 
with some indignation, why they had not awakened 
him. 

"Why didn't we wake you up!" replied Perolet 
at last. "Why, we couldn't. First Sam shake you 
until he get tired, then I shake you until my two 
arms ache. Then we wake up the others an' all 
together shake you, but you just snore on. Then 
we think of bringing up the strongest horse an' let 
heem keeck you, but Sam Strong say no. We 
cannot afford to have our best horse lamed." 

They laughed again, and Bob, seeing that he could 
get no satisfaction out of them, turned to his break- 
fasty which he ate with the keenest appetite. 






72 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

**Aha, Meester Bob is heemself again,'* said 
Perolet, contemplating him with satisfaction, * * Like 
the great Napoleon, he is nearly ready now for 
another battle with the Cheyennes/* 

Bob laughed. 

*'I think I'd rather wait a day or two for that,'* 
he said. 

After he had eaten, Sam, Bill and the boy 
ascended the hill, from the base of which the water 
trickled, and studied the entire circumference of the 
plain. They could see nothing but a few scattered 
buffaloes, grazing at a distance of a mile or so, 
although the eye ranged many miles in the thin, 
clear air. 

*'It's pretty sure that the Cheyennes either lost 
the trail or did not hunt for it again,'* said Strong. 
*'At any rate I'm hopin' for the best, so we ought 
to stop a day at the pool, and renew our supplies 
for the long march that's ahead of us." 

The suggestion seemed good to all, and they spent 
some busy hours. Sam and Bill rode out, shot a 
buflfalo cow, and brought in fresh meat. Tom 
Harris and Porter Evans, both capital men with 
horses, looked after bruised shoulders or sore feet 
among the ponies. Now and then sounds of wordy 
strife over some battle in the Civil War arose, but 
they worked on in the utmost harmony and good 
comradeship. 

** Funny," said Louis Perolet, "two men shoot at 
each odder for four years, an' then be such friends 
that eaieh would die for the odder." 

Obadiah Pirtle was working among the stores. 



i-.jiSi 



TEE SNOWY PASS 73 

He had all a Yankee's cleverness and ingennity, and 
he was reducing the size of the packs without throw- 
ing anything away. Bob helped Perolet with the 
cleaning and cooking of the buffalo meat. 

"Eet ees one great science/* said Perolet, **an* 
we French who have ceevilized the whole world, an* 
paid for it, teach it. Many a man has starved to 
death on the plains and in the mountains with food 
at hees hands.'* 

Bob also took turns at the watch on the hill, but 
the day passed on, and they saw nothing hostile on 
the horizon. It was brilliant and hot, like the one 
just before it, and Bob felt as if the pool with the 
cottonwoods about it was an island, and that, when 
they left it, they were about to venture upon a 
trackless sea. 

Everything was ready, and they departed Just 
after nightfall, both Strong and Cole feeling that 
it would be safer for the present to travel in the 
darkness. But as there was no sign of danger that 
night, nor any the following day, they soon resumed 
the natural mode of progress, the night for sleep 
and rest, and the day for riding. 

Now ensued a most wonderful journey. They 
were marching straight into the Golden West, 
although their gold was to be taken in traps, and 
was not to be dug from the ground. Every hour 
of it was full of variety and delight for Bob. He 
saw spring, with magic touch, transform the plains. 
He saw the young grass springing up everywhere, 
and many a shy little wild flower almost hidden in 
its roots. Now and then, they saw far blue hills 



74 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

but they always kept away from them. Buffalo and 
antelope were abundant, and the prairie chickens 
whirred near the camp. Water was more plentiful 
than usual. Many pools were standing from the 
spring rains, and they crossed two or three shallow 
rivers, clear cold streams, flowing in wide sandy 
beds. 

Gradually the picture of the fierce Dog Soldiers 
and the charge, when white and red came face to 
face, faded from Bob's mind. Again it had become 
a peaceful world through which he was traveling. 

As they advanced far into the west the grass be- 
came thinner and the game scarcer. Now and then 
they crossed stretches of country which were desert, 
but always the air was pure, and had a snap to it 
It rained only once or twice, and, although they had 
two tents with them, they always slept in the open. 
Bob thrived wonderfully in this wild life. Already 
a strong, dexterous boy, the men could almost see 
him growing, and no one was handier with the 
horses, or at any kind of work. One evening in a 
wrestling match he threw both Porter Evans and 
Tom Harris, and pinned their shoulders squarely 
against the ground. 

^'You're comin' on. Bob,** said Sam Strong, as 
he puffed at his pipe. **To down General Grant 
and General Lee in the same evenin* is a pretty big 
thing.*' 

^'It was more trick than anything else,** said Bob, 
modestly. 

''Good trick to know,** said Obadiah Pirtle. 
"May need it some day.** 



■iJi 



THE SNOWY PASS 

More days of peace and easy marching followed. 
The great plains fell behind them, and one after- 
noon a dim bine line showed along the entire horizon 
in front of them. 

**The Rockies!" exclaimed Bob. 

'* That's right/* said Sam Strong. * 'We've been 
climbin' the slopes of the Rockies a long time, slopes 
so gentle that yon don't notice it, bnt them's peaks 
yon see there." 

Bnt to Bob it was his first view of the Rockies, 
of those famons Rocky Mountains of which he had 
been hearing all his life, mountains filled with 
danger, mystery and treasure. 

**Our trapping grounds are in there somewhere, 
are they not t " he asked of Sam Strong. 

Sam pointed vaguely toward the southwest. 

"Down there," he replied, ** among the high 
ranges, but we've got a good deal of rough travelin' 
yet." 

**A11 right, we can stand it," exclaimed Bob, 
joyously. "We're to have a little experience with 
the Rockies." 

Sam Strong smiled. He knew the value of enthu- 
siasm, and he would never discourage it. 

"That's the right spirit, boy," he said. "I've 
always tried to hope for the best, an' I'm glad to 
see that you're doin' it, too. It helps a heap. 
There 11 be work an' danger in them mountains, but 
well do the one, an' conquer the other, won't we. 
Bob, my boyt" 

"We will," said Bob, stauncher than ever in the 
respect and admiration that he felt for his leaden 






76 HOESEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

There were yet four hours of daylight after the 
first sight of the mountains, and they rode until 
nightfall, but the ranges did not seem to come any 
nearer. Sam told the boy that they were yet a 
great distance away. They had seen them because 
they were so high, and the air was so clear. They 
would be riding all the next day, and the mountains 
would yet be a mere blue bank on the horizon. 

The country, after a stretch of almost desert, 
began to improve again. The buffalo grass was 
abundant, and the horses throve on it wonderfully. 
Nor had Strong and Cole allowed them to be pushed, 
knowing how necessary to them these animals were. 
So it was a fat and sleek expedition that encamped 
that night on the plain. No longer having fear of 
the Cheyennes, they built a fine fire of buffalo chips, 
and ate plentifully of game that they had killed by 
the way. 

Bob walked out a little distance from the camp 
later in the evening. There was a good moonlight, 
but he could see the mountains only in his fancy. 
Nevertheless, to see them thus impressed his imag- 
ination as much as the reality. He was eager to 
be up there among the peaks and ridges, where their 
work lay. He had seen enough of the plains for 
a while, and he longed for the crests, white with 
snow, the slopes and the valleys, green with great 
forests, and the rushing torrents of ice cold water 
of which his comrades had talked so much to him. 
They would find there the beaver, their special 
treasure, the elk, the bear, and the wolf and the 
mighty grizzly would not be absent. It appealed 



-/J 



THE SNOWY PASS 77 

powerfully to him, and once more he vowed that he 
would never spare any effort or any risk to help 
these comrades who had been so good to him. 

When he came back to the camp-fire, Louis Perolet 
looked at him quizzically. 

**You have been staring at the mountains that 
you cannot see, Meester Bob,^' he said. **That ees 
right. The mountains have the majesty, the gran- 
deur. Wait until you see them closer, with the 
white snow on their heads. They seem to reach 
up to the great God, and to be silent and awful like 
Heem.'' 

The Frenchman had begun in a light vein, but he 
ended with the greatest gravity, and as Bob nodded, 
he added : 

**You can never make fun of the mountains.*' 

Bob watched the blue line all the next day, as 
they rode toward it, but when night came it was still 
a blue line, though heavier and darker than before. 

**If we start bright an* early we'll strike the 
first slopes about to-morrow night,** said Sam 
Strong, **an*, if I ain*t greatly fooled, we*ll pitch 
our camp in the first belt of pines. It will feel good 
to me to smell the pines again.** 

They were on the march at the first start of dawn, 
and now when Bob saw white crests soaring far up 
into the air, he felt all the emotions that Louis 
Perolet had predicted. Sometimes clouds or mists 
hid the lower slopes, and then the snowy heads 
seemed to float in the air, adding to the sense of 
mystery and solemnity. 

When the clouds and vapors floated away, the 



78 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

ridges and peaks began to take shape. Irregular 
lines were disclosed, and here and there appeared 
openings which, at the distance, looked as narrow 
as knife blades. As they rode on Bob also saw 
the green tint made by the evergreens. 

The plain, watered all the year around by the 
melting snows, was now high in grass, and big game 
was plentiful. They could have shot enough in a 
day or two to feed a regiment. But a herd of wild 
horses, the first that he had seen, interested Bob 
the most. They were at least a hundred in number, 
fine, clean animals, and from a distance of only three 
or four hundred yards they watched the trappers 
riding past. Presently they threw up their heads 
and galloped off in a file toward the south. 

** Happy critters,** said Porter Evans. **Nothin' 
to do but eat an* see the world.** 

They rode rather faster than usual that day, and 
as Sam Strong had foretold, they reached the first 
gentle slope, where the pine was mingled with the 
ash and the oak. Here was a creek taking it some- 
what easier after its rush down the slopes, but ice 
cold, as Bob's comrades had told him it would be. 
In fact, everything they had said was coming true. 
There was the keen balsamic odor of the pines which 
Bob inhaled gratefully, and the wind that blew now 
did not come over empty space. It whistled down 
through great forests. 

The wind was cold, too, and Bob found his blan- 
ket very welcome. So was the fire built from fallen 
boughs of oak and ash, and as they sat around it 
they discussed the second stage of their great cam- 






THE SNOWY PASS TO 

paigiL Bob learned that they were now at one of 
the high passes of the highest Bockies, known only 
to Indians and wandering trappers, and that their 
march through it wonld be slow and risky. 

**Will there be any danger from Indians!** he 
asked Sam Strong. 

**Not from Cheyennes, but some wandering XJtes 
might take pot shots at us. That's a chance that 
we must risk.'* 

They rested three days before undertaking the 
arduous passage of the vast ranges. The horses, 
already in good condition, cropped the rich grass 
and grew fatter. 

BiU Cole shot a splendid elk, Porter Evans and 
Tom Harris caught trout in the creek, and they had 
a great feast. The remainder of the meat, accord- 
ing to their custom, they packed, ready to be carried 
on the horses. 

There was another overhauling of clothing. Sam 
Strong told Bob to wrap himself up as warmly as 
possible. 

"Maybe you won't think it's going to be very 
cold," he said, **but you'll find it out by the time 
we rise a mile or two. It ain't yet full sunmier on 
the mountains, an' there's snow an' ice in plenty." 

The third day being completed they packed their 
horses and began the ascent of the pass. The trail 
was narrow, but for a long time it was good, though 
it rose rapidly. Before noon the men dismounted 
and led all the horses. Bob was near the end of the 
file, and it seemed to him that he had come into 
another world. Vast forests were about him. He 






8a HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

looked down into a deep chasm on one side, and up 
to a mighty peak on the other. He saw great fields 
of ice and snow, and he heard the sonnd of rushing 
waters. Once a bear crawled through the under- 
brush, and again the elk were whistling on the 
slopes. 

The wind grew keener and colder. Coming down 
from the snow-fields it had an edge of ice, and Bob 
was thankful for Sam Strong's advice about the 
clothes. But he was vastly interested, enjoying 
every moment of the march. He wished to see 
everything, to note every kind of tree, and to 
remember the slopes of the ridges and peaks, as far 
as his eye could reach. 

They stopped about the middle of the afternoon 
and took a rest of an hour, much needed by men and 
horses. Bob looked back, and he was surprised to 
see that the plains were yet so near. There they 
were, rolling away in faint green swells toward the 
east, and the distance between him and that waving 
expanse did not seem to be more than a few hun- 
dred yards. They had been traveling at such an 
angle that they had not achieved distance as much 
as height. Obadiah Pirtle saw him looking back 
and he remarked tersely : 

**It's goin' to be a tre-men-jeous climb, but weTl 
make it all righf 

At three o'clock they began to ascend again. The 
ponies now proved troublesome. The steepness of 
the climb, the increasing thinness of the air and the 
cold seemed to terrify them. Four of the party 
now went before, holding the lariats, and three came 



THE SNOWY PASS 81 . 

behind armed with stout sticks, ready to beat the 
stubborn, or the sluggish, back into the path of 
duty. 

They talked for a while, but after the first hour 
fell into complete silence. The steepness was tell- 
ing on both man and brute, and the wind from the 
peaks was blowing with increasing strength and 
coldness. Already they had reached the region of 
snow, and Bob saw ravines and chasms in which it 
lay many feet deep. But the white heads seemed 
to tower as far above as ever. 

His own riding pony, which he led with two 
others, stopped suddenly, made a desperate effort 
to catch the stony soil with his front hoofs, and, 
failing, was about to plunge downward five hundred 
feet, but Bob, with great presence of mind, released 
the other two, and pulled with all his might on the 
single lariat. 

The descent of the pony, sustained a little also by 
Ms own efforts, was checked, but Bob could not hold 
him long. 

* ' Help ! ' ^ he cried loudly. ' ' Quick I quick ! ' ' 

The two soldiers, who were nearest, releasing 
their own horses, sprang forward and seized the 
lariat. The three pulled together with a mighty 
jerk, and the pony helping, he was drawn back into 
the path, where he stood weak and shivering, just 
like a human being saved from imminent death. 

The other ponies had been thrown into fright by 
the plight of their comrade, and might have stam- 
peded down the pass, but the three men behind them 
closed up and restored order. It was at least a 

6 



82 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

quarter of an hour, however, before the animals 
were soothed sujGBiciently to go on without resistance 
or trembling. 

Night came early on these eastern slopes of the 
heights. The sun was soon gone beyond the high 
peaks, and cold darkness advanced. Strong and 
Cole conferred anxiously, and it was evident to 
Bob, who saw them looking about, that they sought 
a place for a camp. They found it at last in a com- 
paratively level spot, of half an acre or so, studded 
about with dwarf pines. Near the center of it was a 
lakelet perhaps twenty yards across, but apparently 
deep, and they tethered all the horses near its edge. 
Brute beasts though they were, they neighed their 
gladness, and when the men built a fire of unusual 
size from the fallen timber, they drew as near to it 
as their lariats allowed. 

It was their first mountain camp, and for a while 
all felt the cold and desolation. Having no fear of 
Indians here, they threw on wood until the fire fairly 
roared, but it was yet desolate and chill beyond 
the circle of the firelight. Bob, from where he 
sat, saw to the right and above him a vast field 
of ice and snow, glittering and unearthly in the 
moonlight. 

Before their supper was over snow began to fall 
in huge flakes, whirled lazily here and there by the 
wind. They unpacked their two canvas tents and 
raised them as a protection, but it was not the whirl- 
ing flakes, at this stage of the ascent, that worried 
Sam Strong. It was the omen of what might be 
when they approached the crest of the pass. 



^ M 



THE SNOWY PASS 83 

''It looks bad/' he said to BiU Cole- ''We've 
got to expect wind an' snow, an' lots of both." 

Bill Cole nodded. 

But Bob, with his heavy blanket wrapped abont 
his shonlderSy was not feeling any apprehensions. 
He had an abiding faith that they wonld triumph 
over everything. He walked to the edge of the pine 
grove with Louis Perolet, and stood there looking 
out at the cold world. The plains could not be seen 
now in the gray of the night, and apparently there 
was a bottomless gulf at their feet But above 
them, just where the moon hung over the highest 
crest, it was brighter. 

Directly between him and the moon. Bob saw the 
outline of some animal, thickset, and with horns. 
The intense moonlight made it stand out sharply 
and seem very near. It was perched on a rock, 
gazing downward at the light in the pine grove. 

*'A mountain sheep," said Louis Perolet, "but 
too far away for a shot." 

"I shouldn't want to shoot at him, even if he were 
near enough," said the boy. "We do not need 
him." 

"You are right," said Perolet. "Why should we 
keel the monarch of the cliffs when he does not hurt 
US an' we do not wish to eat heemt" 

The animal turned back from the projecting rock 
and disappeared. Presently a low sound, distant 
and rhythmical, came to Bob's ears. 

*'Do you hear that, Louis t" he asked. "What 
is itt" 

"Eet ees a snowslide," replied Perolet, "an' eet 



\lkir 



i\: 



84 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

ees maybe a mile away. The snow has been loos- 
ened by the warmer air of spring an* eet plunges 
down the mountain in mighty masses. Eet ees 
lucky that we are not in the path of any snow-field 
here.*' 

**It is so," said Bob. "It would be a pity, 
wouldn't it, if our great expedition were suddenly 
blotted out here by a hundred thousand tons of 
snowf 

Perolet nodded, and the two walked back to the 
fire. 



'A 



I • 



CHAPTEE VI 
THE PRECIPICE 

When Bob and Louis Perolet were in the fnll 
blaze of the firelight, Sam Strong signed to them to 
sit down, and they did so, warming their hands at 
the welcome blaze. It was evident to Bob that the 
others had been talking about a matter of gravity, 
and he waited for Sam to speak. 

** We've been tnmin^ things over a bit,'' said the 
leader, **an' we want the whole gang to agree, so 
if things go wrong nobody can say *I told you so.' 
I'm always hopin' for the best, but there's no use 
tryin' to hide from ourselves the fact that the 
weather is goin' to be bad, mighty bad, while we're 
travelin' across the mountains. It ain't goin' to 
be no summer picnic. Do any of you want to turn 
back an' wait until the warm weather has melted the 
snow more t If so, let him speak up. ' ' 

He waited and there was a dead silence. Bob, 
watching him closely by the firelight, saw a faint 
smile flicker for a moment in the eyes of the plains- 
man. 

**I don't hear anybody shoutin'," said Sam. 
**Now, whoever is in favor of goin' on, snow or no 
snow, ice or no ice, storm or no storm, let him 
say *I'." . 

**II" shouted six voices together. 

'^An' I'll add another a'," said Sam Strong. 

85 






86 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

''Of course we'll go on,** said Porter Evans. 
''The Yankee army would have turned back at these 
mountains, but the Confederate army would have 
gone straight ahead, hittin* only the high places.** 

"You got used to hittin* the high places, when we 
were after you,** rejoined Tom Harris. 

Bob kept the first watch with the leader, and as 
the night deepened and the fire died down, he felt 
to its full extent the mighty desolation of the cold 
wilderness. The settled East seemed inexpressibly 
far, so remote that it never could be reached again, 
and he was glad enough to have Sam walking beside 
him. Twice more they heard the sound of snow 
slides, and once the long, whining cry of a wolf. 

"That*s the mountain kind,** said Sam. "Big, 
gray fellows. I*ve seen *em six feet long, an* I 
wouldn't want to meet one, I can tell you, unless 
I had a gun along with me.** 

Bob watched only until midnight, and then he 
made his preparations for bed very carefully. He 
crawled into the tent, already occupied by Harris 
and Evans, spread one blanket carefully on some 
leaves that they had gathered, wrapped another 
around him from his neck to his toes, lay down on 
the first blanket, and composed himself for slumber, 
although he was situated so he could see through 
the open flap of the tent. He awoke at some hour 
of the night and saw that it was snowing, not a 
snow driven by the wind, but heavy flakes dropping 
straight down. They were so thick that he cbnld 
not see the surface of the lakelet, but in his half 
dreamy state he was not disturbed. The wannffi 



THE PRECIPICE 87 

and comfort of his blankets only soothed him soon 
to deeper slnmber. 

They fomid the pass the next morning more 
formidable than before. The snow had ceased to 
fall, bnt it lay a foot deep on the ground, hiding 
the bad places of the pass and making the good ones 
slippery. Every man drew the flaps of his fur cap 
abont his ears, tied a woollen comforter abont his 
neck, and put on buckskin gloves. Strong led the 
way, and all the morning they climbed, choosing the 
trail with infinite care, and proceeding very slowly. 
Once they heard the roar of a coming snowslide, 
and uncertain whether to go forward or turn back 
they stood still, all except the horses which shivered 
witii fright, although they did not try to break from 
the hold of the men. 

The avalanche passed two or three hundred yards 
to the right of them, bearing trees and bushes upon 
its crest. It made a tremendous, crashing roar, but 
in a few moments it was gone, and they could hear 
it thundering far down the mountainside. 

"Feels just as if you were at Gettysburg an* a 
hnndred pound cannon-shot had whizzed by your 
head, just tippin* your left ear, to let you know that 
it was passin',*' said Porter Evans. 

The wind did not blow until nearly noon, and then 
it cut deep. Bob's hands grew cold, despite his 
buckskin gloves, and he was forced to take them out 
two or three times and rub them with snow to drive 
away the numbness. But the fine particles of snow, 
driven into their eyes by the wind, troubled them 
most It was like hail, and it became so strong at 



88 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

last that they were forced to stop and turn their 
backs to it. 

**We're goin' to have a blizzard, an* there *s no 
use denyin* it, even if one does hope for the best,*' 
said Sam Strong, ^^an' what we want is shelter.'* 

**An* we want it terrible queeck,** said Louis 
Perolet. **It's a time when the great Napoleon 
himself would stop. * * 

Strong and Cole, being the strongest, went on 
ahead a little distance to look for a camp, while the 
others held the horses. They returned presently, 
giving a shout of triumph as they approached. 
They had found a big hollow or cave-like opening 
in the rocks, three or four hundred yards ahead, 
where they would be protected from snow and wind 
alike. 

They urged the horses forward anew, but they 
were a long time in traveling those three or four 
hundred yards. Several of them had to be beaten 
with sticks before they would face the stinging sleet. 

But when the place, described by Bill and Sam, 
was reached, it proved a genuine haven, a great 
recess in the rocks, with an arching stone roof and 
a comparatively level floor. It was open on only 
one side, that toward the east, and the wind was 
blowing from the west. 

The horses might not have been willing to enter 
such a place at any ordinary time, but now they 
went in willingly, and cowered against the stone 
wall for protection. The men felt an equal relief. 
They were no longer blinded by the driven snow, 
and the wind beat itself out against the stone waOL 



■ 4 



i:1»i 



THE PBECIPICE 89 

But secure as they were for the present, Strong 
felt great apprehension lest the wind shift. If it 
turned about, and came out of the east, they would 
be protected only in part, and he was in a great 
hurry to fix the tents so firmly that they could not 
be blown away. They were tied to every available 
comer of stone, and then the edges were held down 
by other stones. Thus secured, it would take a 
mighty blast to tear them from their moorings. 
The horses were tethered also, lest they take fright 
and dash over a cliff. 

A fire would have been cheerful, but no wood was 
to be found at that rocky height, and all of the men 
sought the shelter of the tents, where they sat 
wrapped in their heaviest clothing and blankets. 
But Louis Perolet, not daunted at all, brought forth 
a little alcohol lamp and lighted it. Then he cooked 
buffalo strips, made them hot coffee, and they were 
reasonably happy. 

'*Eet ees not so bad,*' said Perolet, cheerfully. 
**Eet ees like the great Napoleon, crossing the Alps 
to achieve the gran' victory of Marengo. Monsieur 
Strong ees Napoleon, an' we are the marshals." 

The wind did not abate, but it still blew from the 
northwest, and shrieked over their heads. Although 
they heard' it well,, they felt its force but little. 
Eivans and Harris now and then went among the 
horses, and soothed them with a touch or a word. 

**It's wonderful what a gift them two generals 
have with horses," said Sam Strong. **Some men 
are that way. I guess they know how to talk horse 
talk to a horse." 



\ 



90 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

Dark came very early, and, while it was yet 
twilight. Bob and Sam stood at the edge of the 
alcove, looking out at what had been their trail. 
The wind, loaded with snow, screamed past themi, 
but Sam, who was looking up the sharp ascent, 
pressed his hand upon Bob's arm. 

** Don't move or speak P' he whispered. **See 
who's coming." 

A hundred yards above them, two Indians, 
wrapped in blankets and thick leggins, were stag- 
gering down the trail. Their heads were bent in 
the effort to secure firm footing, and they seemed 
to have neither eye nor thought for anything else. 

*' Unless they know of this place they won't see 
us," whispered Strong. *'It's hid too much by the 
dark an' the snow. They're Utes from the other 
side of the mountains, an' they're no friends of 
ours. " 

Bob could not keep from asking one question. 

'* Suppose they do know of this place," he said, 
**and attempt to turn into it?" 

**I don't like to think of it," replied the leader. 
But one hand in its buckskin gauntlet slipped down 
to the breech of his rifle. Bob's heart began to beat 
fast. He devoutly hoped that the Utes would go 
on. They were strong, determined men, and the; 
carried rifles, but they would have no chance if the 
turned aside into the fatal alcove. 

Nearer they came. Now they were level witE * 
white men, and it seemed impossible to Bob - 
the two warriors should not see the wide mon^ 
the stony alcove. But he forgot the dusk as 



A. 



I 




■' They're Utps fn.iii 



^ 



THE PRECIPICE 93 

and, just before sunset, they stood on the backbone 
of the pass, ten thousand feet or more above the 
sea. On either side of them, and, before them, 
towered other peaks nearly a mile higher, all white 
with snow. 

It was to Bob a scene of indescribable majesty 
and solemnity. He was lifted far above the earth. 
Not only were the peaks white, but so was every- 
thing else, the ridges, the slopes and the far dim 
plains, except in the west, where a setting sun of 
supernatural brightness tinted half of the world with 
reddish gold. It was like some vast primeval 
planet, to which man had not yet been bom. 

The boy was awed, and, when he looked at his 
comrades, he knew that the same feeling was strong 
within them. They were not cultivated men in the 
ordinary sense, but the tremendous spectacle made 
a deep appeal to them. Sam Strong was the first 
to speak. 

**I ain't a gushin* man'' he said, **but I reckon 
it was worth the climb up here to see this. IVe 
seen it twice before, but it's finest now." 

Almost as he spoke, the sun dropped behind a 
vast range much further west, and the red gold of 
the sun, that fell across the snow, turned to a pale 
silver gray. Cold night came down swiftly, and all 
turned to the work of making a camp. 

They could not find a place so suitable as that of 
the night before, but they were able to secure a fair 
degree of shelter behind some immense bowlders, 
where they threw up a wall of smaller stones, fac- 
ing towards the northwest, in case the wind that 



94 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

they dreaded most should begin to blow again* But 
the night passed, without trouble, although it was 
intensely cold, and, in the morning, they began the 
long descent, which would be extremely broken and 
irregular. In the valley they had cut grass for the 
horses which they brought on the packs, and, before 
starting, they served a liberal portion to them. 

By the time they had been marching two hours, 
great masses of clouds floated in between them and 
the valley and the world was blotted out again. 
From the northwest came a mutter and then a 
whistle. The dreaded wind was blowing again. It 
was in their faces now, deadly cold, and they made 
many stops. Strong and Cole, as usual, led the 
way and they had to exercise extraordinary pre- 
caution lest the horses slip forward upon them. 

Bob was put in the rear. He wished to be at the 
front with Strong and Cole, but he was assigned 
to his place, and he accepted it, without a protest. 
He was still resolute in his determination never to 
complain, always to do, as best he could, the duty 
assigned to him. 

As the hours went on, the day steadily grew 
worse. They were now exposed to the full force 
of the wind, which never abated for a moment, and 
the cold was intense. The utmost precaution had 
to be taken against freezing or frost-bite. Bob 
began to think they never would succeed, but he 
put the thought away from him, calling up all his 
courage for the great work. 

They struggled on bravely until night came again, 
and once more they found refuge in a comer of 



■ ^ 



THE PEECIPICB 95 

the cliff, aided a little by the fact that the wind had 
lulled somewhat. But it was still so strong that it 
required their united efforts to set the tents, and 
one of them was blown away before they could 
fasten it down. They put the horses, as usual, 
between the tents and the side of the cliff, and now 
they tethered them together, lest they be thrown 
into a panic and attempt flight. 

They were all roused at dawn, but it was a misty 
yellowish day, the sun barely showing through great 
clouds, and before they could start again the snow 
began to fall heavily. 

Bob went forward a little to look at the trail. 
Clothed thickly, and with his rifle over his shoulder, 
he made but little progress. Moreover the snow, 
coming straight into his face, blinded him, and he 
did not notice that he was stepping from the path, 
toward the edge of a precipice. 

He heard a shout behind him, a shout of warning, 
uttered at once by Strong and Cole, and he uttered 
a cry himself, wrung from him by the suddenness 
of a great peril. He felt the snow yielding beneath 
his feet. He tried to step back, or to grasp at some- 
thing. But he clutched only snow, and it slipped 
from his fingers. 

He heard another cry from his comrades, and the 
roar of a mighty mass falling. He fell down, down 
with it, he knew not where, enveloped in a great 
white cloud, and his senses left him. 



CHAPTER Vn 
IN THE BEARSKIN 

When Bob recovered consciousness, he was cough- 
ing violently, and what caused him to congh was 
snow that insisted upon entering his month. But 
he cleared his mouth, and undertook to move. He 
found the operation diflSicult, but he only struggled 
the harder, whereupon he righted himself, and 
found that he was standing in snow to his chin. 
Moreover, it was still snowing, coming down in 
great flakes, and they were so thick that he could 
not see twenty yards from where he was. What 
he did see was snow, snow, only snow. 

He remembered, although there was not much to 
remember, the sudden terrible sinking sensation, 
the warning shouts of the others, and then the white 
darkness. It was impossible to say how far he 
had fallen, but he had landed feet foremost in an 
immense drift, where it was well packed, a fact that 
kept him from going over his head. He had also 
been helped by the rifle, strapped on his back. It 
had crossed like a balancing pole, and impeded his 
sinking. 

By cautiously treading the snow beneath him, 
Bob managed to raise his body up as far as his 
arm-pits. Then he felt himself, because he was 
quite sure at first that he was only a fragment of 
a boy who had fallen off a mountain two miles high. 

96 




m THE BEARSKIN 97 

But he was whole, and even more, no bones were 
broken. There was a cut across his left arm, where 
his coat had pulled away from his buckskin glove, 
but the snow had stopped it from bleeding. He felt 
no especial pain, as he moved and hence there could 
be no internal bruise of importance. 

He was sure that he could not have been in the 
snow long or he would have suffered frost-bite, and 
he was devoutly grateful that he had fared so well 
thus far, but he realized that he was still in a 
terrible plight. He looked up, and saw only the 
blank, white wall of a drift, for a hundred yards 
or so, and then the cloud of falling snow. The 
cliff was not perpendicular, but a steep slope. That 
doubtless had broken his fall and saved his life. 

He raised his voice, and began to shout for his 
comrades : 

**0 SamP' 

**OBilir' 

Thunderous echoes came back, and he knew that 
he must be in a deep canyon, but nothing else came. 
There was not a reply either to the **BilP' or the 
**Sam.'' He called them over again. The same 
echo came back again and that alone. Then, moved 
by desperate fear, he called them all in turn: 

**SamI'' 

''Bill!'' 

''Obadiahl'' 

''Louis!'' 

"Porter!" 

"Tom!" 

Not one answered, and the boy's sense of deso- 

7 






98 HOKSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

lation was so terrible, so overwhelming that, for a 
moment or two, he felt as one already dead. But he 
had great courage, fed by a strong body, and once 
more he took count of himself and his situation. He 
still had a chance, so long as his limbs were whole, 
and he had his weapons and ammunition. 

He began to move forward slowly, finding the 
snow so well packed that he did not sink much 
above his knees. He did not know where he was 
going, but movement itself brought a new circu- 
lation of the blood, and fresh hope of life. He 
advanced about a rod, when instinct this time 
warned him. He felt a slight sliding of the snow, 
and he turned in abruptly, toward the face of the 
cliff. Ten yards to the right of him the white bank 
dropped away and he heard the familiar roar of 
the snowslide. 

The boy was appalled, but he drew inferences, 
nevertheless. He must be standing upon a shelf 
about twenty yards wide, and as long as he stood 
close to the cliff, he was in no imminent danger. 
But if he remained there, he might as well have 
dropped to death at once, and he continued, still 
hugging the side of the cliff. 

He had no idea of the direction in which he was 
going, but, at intervals, he shouted again with all 
the might of a voice that was by no means weak. 
Still no answer but the echoes. Then another idea 
came to him. He took the rifle from his shoulder, 
and fired twice. The reports were sharp and clear, 
and the echoes rose far above the wind, but there 
was no answer. 



IN THE BEARSKIN 99 

He strapped the rifle upon his back again, and 
moved on. If only that blinding snow would cease 
he might discover where he was, and know what 
he onght to do. He had one advantage. He was 
more sheltered here from the wind than he had been 
before his fall, and he was fairly warm. He pulled 
himself along the edge of the cliff at least an hour, 
stopping at times to rest, and then the falling snow 
began to thin. He could still see nothing above 
him but white wall, but, below him, he saw the dim 
white floor of a chasm, apparently a thousand feet 
down. He was right in his surmise. He stood on 
a shelf which had broken his fall into the main 
canyon. He could only hope that the shelf would 
descend gradually, until he might reach the canyon, 
and, as he continued, there was evidence that the 
hope might come true. Another hour, and the val- 
ley was much nearer, a third and it was not two 
hundred yards away. Then the shelf ended in 
snowy rocks and a sheet of ice, which Bob thought 
must be a miniature glacier. 

Further advance seemed impossible, but the reso- 
lute and resourceful boy did not yield. His hunting 
knife was always in its sheath at his belt, and he 
began to cut steps in the ice. It was slow work, 
and he had to be careful lest he break the blade, 
but sometimes there was a stretch of rough rock, 
not covered with ice, and then he descended 
more rapidly. It was a delicate task even then, 
and a slip might send him headlong. He was 
able to save himself, until he was within ten yards 
of the bottom. Then his feet flew from under 



i'\ . 



100 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

him, and he shot downward into the deep snow. 

The boy alighted on one shoulder, and again the 
rifle served partially as a sort of life belt. He did 
not sink far, and, when he righted himself, he found 
that he was unhurt. His first object was to see 
what kind of a place it was into which he had come. 
As far as he could make out, he was now standing 
in a valley, perhaps several hundred yards wide, 
maybe more, but containing only snow. He had 
not expected to find trees, as he knew that he was 
above the line of vegetation, but he did hope that 
the valley might contain a few shrubs, anything 
but that eternal snow. 

Although the snow was still falling, he could see 
a faint yellowish sun, and, by taking observations 
from it, he knew in which direction the west lay. 
The great ravine led that way, and he moved along 
slowly, sinking into the snow above his knees, but 
in no fear of a fall over a precipice. At intervals 
of a half hour, he fired his rifle, hoping that his 
comrades would hear, but no reply ever came. 

He was not especially cold, but a deadly weari- 
ness oppressed him. An increasing darkness in the 
pass showed him that night was now coming, and 
that he must rest and sleep. Fortunately, before 
beginning the ascent they provided for emergencies. 
Every man carried his blanket in a light roll on his 
back, food in his knapsack, and a little stimulant 
for dire need. 

The boy found a place under a shelving rock that 
was free from snow. He pushed himself back into 
it, not caring for, or not noticing the animal odor 



IN THE BEARSKIN 101 

that it exuded, and took the strips of dried buffalo 
meat from his knapsack. He ate them greedily, 
almost like an animal, and then he took a drink from 
the emergency stimulant. A pleasant warmth and 
drowsiness crept through every vein. The driving 
snow did not touch him here, and he must sleep. 
But he knew the treachery of the night that was 
coming, and he did not forget, in the luxury of the 
physical senses, to take every precaution. He 
wrapped the blanket about his body with the greatest 
care, enclosing the feet as usual, drew it up around 
his neck and face until it met the flaps of his cap, 
put the knapsack under his head, and then fell 
asleep as gently as a little child in its bed. 

It was a vast cold world that looked down upon 
the lone boy, deep in a canyon of the Rocky Moun- 
tains, and lost to his comrades. His face was pale, 
and he showed signs of the terrible hours through 
which he had been, but his breathing was peaceful 
and regular, and his dreams were happy. Nothing 
disturbed him. The animal that had slept there 
before him had known enough to flee at the coming 
of the snows, and did not return. Bob slept all the 
night and far into the next day. He was so 
thoroughly exhausted that nature kept him in what 
was, perhaps, as much a stupor as sleep. When he 
awoke, half the forenoon was gone, the snow had 
ceased and the sun was shining. He was somewhat 
stiff, but he had not suffered any frost-bite, and he 
came out from the shelter of the ledge into the open 
space of the valley. 

The valley or canyon was at least a quarter of ft 



102 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

mile broad, but above it towered the cliffs to a great < 
height, steep, white and apparently inaccessible. 
It was obvious that any attempt to climb them would 
fail, besides, in all likelihood, bringing down upon 
his head a snowslide that would end his fur hunting 
expedition then and there. Nothing was left for 
him to do but to keep straight on for the west, and 
trust to happy chance. 

The boy judged that he had fallen from the cliff 
at some point much lower than the present walls 
or he would have been killed, despite his plunge into 
the snow. The great heights above him made Mm 
shudder. 

He inferred from the position of the sun that it 
was at least ten o 'clock when he awoke, and feeling 
strong and much encouraged, he traveled at least 
four hours before stopping. He was hopeful that 
his comrades were marching along some fairly 
parallel path, but it might be only a hope. 

His canyon turned somewhat to the right, and 
then he saw before him a vast valley, far beneath 
his feet, and shut in on the horizon rim by other 
mountains lower than those on which he stood, and 
probably a hundred miles away at least. He could 
tell nothing of the nature of this valley, whether 
plains or wooded, as it, like everything else, was 
deep in snow and presented only a white expanse. 

As his view had widened greatly on every side, 
he was hopeful that he might see his comrades, but 
not a single black dot was in sight. He used another 
valuable cartridge with the usual result, and theOi 
resolved not to repine, he resumed the descent. 



IN THE BEARSKIN 103 

He saw great quantities of ice on the western side 
of the range, sometimes in vast sheets, and at other 
times in frozen torrents which would unlock when 
the summer was more advanced. He believed that 
he could now make out the tree range below him. 
There was a white tracery which must be the boughs 
of pines and cedars, and the sight filled him with 
gladness and courage. Trees mean life, not only 
living earth, but life for man as well. 

Bob traveled all that day down a fairly easy 
slope, and at nightfall reached the first trees. He 
felt an immense sense of delight and victory when 
he was able to reach forward and touch the first 
scrub pine. He was like a shipwrecked sailor who 
had swum until his feet touched land, and, more- 
over, a single bush even was a relief from the ever- 
lasting snow. 

Despite the danger from the snowslides and 
precipices, he pushed on a little further in the half 
darkness until a place was found where the pines 
were larger and denser. Here, in the center of a 
dense clump, he made a burrow like a rabbit. He 
scooped out the snow with his hands until it formed 
a little circular wall, buttressed by the trees, and, 
curling himself up in the hole, he lay down to sleep. 
He was hungry, but the last shred of food was gone, 
and he must make up his mind to do without it for 
the night at least, hoping to forget his pangs in 
slumber. He was warm enough when he lay in his 
blanket, and he would have been thorougUy com- 
fortable if he could only have stopped that aching 
sensation in the pit of his stomach. 



104 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

He did not go to sleep at once. His nerves, some- 
what overstrained, would not let him, and he looked 
up at the sky from his burrow as from the bottom 
of a well. He saw, therefore, a circular expanse of 
cold blue, with cold, white stars dancing in it. It 
was so distant, and he was so alone, that he began 
to wonder vaguely whether he would ever see his 
comrades again. 

But, while he was wondering, he fell asleep, and, 
when he awoke the next morning, he was assailed 
by a hunger so fierce that it could scarcely be 
endured. He made up his mind to abandon the 
descent of the range for the time and hunt. He 
might find a rabbit in the brush. He must find 
something if he would live. 

The slope upon which he now stood was not very 
steep and it was forested well. It was extremely 
likely that in such a region, where man was practi- 
cally unknown, game could be found, and Bob sought 
vigorously here and there in the snow, looking care- 
fully under the pines and cedars, in the hope of 
stirring up a rabbit. 

Thus passed over an hour without result, and he 
became very faint and weak. He was compelled to 
realize that he was reaching the end of his powers. 
Courage alone could not overcome starvation. He 
poked a stick that he had found into a clump of 
cedars, holding his rifle in the other hand, ready to 
shoot in case a rabbit jumped up. 

A roar so thunderous followed that the boy leaped 
back five feet. It was well that his impulse carried 
him so far, as a great bear sprang up from the 



IN THE BEARSKIN 107 

Bob had just finished toasting his eighth strip 
when his attention was drawn by a sound, half a 
growl and half a whine, but wholly unpleasant and 
menacing. He saw beneath a pine a pair of fiery 
red eyes and a long, lank gray body. It was a 
wolf, not the common creature of the plains, but the 
great mountain savage, almost as strong, and fully 
as fierce as a cougar. 

The wolf had come to share in Bob's trophy, the 
bear, and the boy shuddered. This was an animal 
of unusual ferocity, and more might be behind him. 
He did not hesitate. He raised the loaded rifle that 
lay beside him, took quick aim at a point midway 
in the space between the eyes, and fired. The wolf 
bounded into the air and fell back in the snow. 

Bob did not move, but presently he heard a snap- 
ping and snarling in the bushes and he knew that 
the slain wolf was being devoured by his comrades. 
He shuddered again, and, foreseeing the danger that 
might come, began at once to take precautions 
against it. The bear was too heavy to be dragged 
to his alcove in the rocks where the fire was burn- 
ing, but he cut off as much of the flesh as he could 
possibly carry in his journey, put it in the rock 
and left the rest to the wolves. They cautiously 
approached it a little later, and as he did not fire 
upon them, they fell to work. They stripped it 
dean in an incredibly short space, and seeing their 
skill and speed in such a task. Bob was devoutly 
thankful that he had his rifle with him. The boy 
took the heavy bearskin down from the tree, pounded 
the inside surface with stones, and rubbed it with 



108 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

snow. He worked so hard that the perspiration 
came, despite the great cold, and he was forced to 
rest his aching arms. But he wanted that bearskin, 
and he wanted it to be in shape for use. He had an 
idea that he would need it badly before he reached 
the valley and the warm country. 

He spent all that day dressing the bearskin and 
dragging up wood for his fire. He knew by the feel 
of the wind and its sharp edge that the fiercest 
stage of the blizzard was coming, and he meant to 
see it through in his present camp. He cooked 
enough of the bear meat to last several days, built 
up the fire in front of the warmest and snuggest 
place in the alcove, and lay down there with the 
great bearskin around him, the inside turned out- 
ward. It was a magnificent robe, and the fur felt 
very soft and warm as he drew it around his face. 
He had not felt so warm, so splendidly comfortable 
in a week, and he lay there, watching the flames of 
his fire, which were dancmg before the rising wind. 
By and by, he saw red eyes and shadowy, dark 
figures beyond the flames, and he knew that the 
wolves, not content with the larger part of a big 
silver tip bear, had come back for the bear's slayer. 
But he knew, too, that they would not dare to pass 
the fire, and that they were intelligent enough to 
have a healthy fear of his rifle. 

He was really but little afraid of the wolves now, 
and soon they slunk away. All the time the wind 
was rising, and it had the edge of a knife. But the 
boy, wrapped to the eyes in the bear's robe, felt like 
a bear himself, gone into winter quarters. The 



. .l-ifh 



IN THE BEAKSKIN 109 

great cold could not get at him. His food lay within 
reach of his gloved hand, and what more could he 
ask? 

The day passed, night came and the wind whis- 
tled straight out of the northwest like a cannon ball. 
It brought with it now, not snow, but hail, which 
rattled among the trees like shot. It came at such 
an angle that the stone ledge, against which Bob 
lay, turned it like a shield, and by and by the regular 
rattling sound became pleasant and soothing. He 
was conscious that his fire was dying before the 
wind and hail, but he did not care. He did not 
believe that the wolves would seek him in such a 
storm, and, as for the storm itself, it might rise to 
any height, but it could never penetrate the great 
bearskin, in which he was enfolded as snugly as its 
original owner. 

The boy, his rifle enclosed in the bearskin also, 
slept on, and all through the night the great bliz- 
zard raged and tore at the flanks of the immutable 
mountains. The fire was out long since and the 
charred sticks were covered with frozen snow. Once 
the mountain wolves, a dozen in number, gaunt, 
ferocious, and ready, in their fellowship, to attack 
anything, came back to the place where they had 
eaten so much good food. No red flame or glowing 
coal was left to frighten them, but the strange odor, 
that of a human being, came to their nostrils, and 
they knew its origin to be a rocky alcove that they 
coxild see. 

They could have attacked and torn the boy to 
pieces before he had a chance to defend himself, 



110 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

but the wolves remembered. Their leader, the king 
of them all, had been slain at a distance by some- 
thing in the hands of this boy. There had been a 
sharp crack, a gush of fire, and then the great moun- 
tain wolf was dead. 

They were drawn by hunger, still unappeased, 
but shuddering fear, fear of the mysterious death, 
held them back. Hunger and fear fought, but fear 
conquered. They slunk away over the frozen snow, 
and the boy, wrapped in the bearskin in the rocky 
alcove, still slept, warm, and dreaming beautiful 
dreams. 

After midnight the blizzard increased in violence 
and ferocity. It was the testimony of wandering 
Utes and Arapahoes that not another such storm 
had been known on the mountains in a decade. 
Now the hail came like a vast rifle-fire, then it was 
only the wind itself, but with a breath that froze 
at its touch. 

The mountain wolves gave up all thought of the 
human being who lay in tjie bearskin under the 
shelter of the rock. Hardy as they were, they were 
fleeing now to their own lairs to save their lives, 
and all the bears, up to the biggest and the strongest, 
sought their dens, unable to face the cutting sleet. 
The forest was full of wild creatures by day, but 
that night none stalked abroad. 

The blizzard did not pass until daylight, and it 
was late when Bob awoke. It was a slight sense of 
suffocation that caused him to sit up, and he found 
that he moved with diflSculty. Snow had packed in! 
front of him, and, on either side, everywhere except 



IN THE BEARSKIN Ul 

at his back, where the rock thrust up, the surface 
of this snow was a sheet of packed hail. Only in 
front of him, where he had been breathing, it was 
moist around the edges. He was like a seal, with 
his blowhole in the ice. 

Bob's first task was to make his den a little wider, 
to trample down the snow on all sides, and then to 
eat up his frozen bear steaks. He found his mus- 
cles somewhat stiff at first, but with exercise they 
soon recovered their elasticity. Again he was 
devoutly grateful to the bear which had saved him, 
first from starving and then from freezing. 

The snow was not much deeper than on the day 
before, but the frozen crust of hail and ice made the 
traveling much harder. Nevertheless, he faced it 
with a bold heart. Heavy as was the bearskin, he 
rolled it up and packed it on his shoulders, adding 
the food to his burden, and then he set out. 

Circumstances, which had been so long against 
the boy, now began to favor him. The slope 
became steep, though not dangerous, and he rapidly 
descended to a warmer air. The sun came out, 
bright and inspiring, and the temperature rose fast. 
The forest was thick, and he found many easy paths 
leading through it. At noon he stopped and man- 
aged to build another fire under some cedars. 
Here, while he warmed his body and ate, he took 
thought with himself and tried to plan the best way 
to reach his old comrades. They must be some- 
where in the great valley before him, and they 
would follow ihe easiest trail to the next range of 
mountains, as he knew that they were yet far from 



112 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

their destination. He must also choose what he 
thought to be the easiest trail, and follow it as fast 
as he could. 

He could see the valley now, and the greenish 
tint showed that no snow had fallen there. He sur- 
mised that it was much such a country as that which 
he had left behind him, on the other side of the 
range. He thought that he would reach the valley 
before dark, but it was further than it looked, and 
he was yet a long distance from it when night came. 
But he was below the snow line, and he had no diffi- 
culty in building a fire, by the side of which he 
slept well. 

He deserted his beloved bearskin the next morn- 
ing. He had come into a warmer zone, and it was 
too heavy to carry when not needed. But it had 
served him so well that he was unwilling to have it 
torn by wolves or other wild animals, and, making 
it into as small a package as he could, he tied it 
into the fork of a tree. 

He now found clear, cold streams running down 
the side of the mountain, and he drank plentifully 
from them. He had used snow water so long that 
the streams were a relief, although they came from 
meltiag snows themselves. 

The forest was thick all along the slopes, and as 
he descended, the trees, chiefly ash, oak and cedar, 
increased in size. There was beautiful springy 
turf here, and he knew from the nature of the coun- 
try that game must be abundant. The sight was so 
exhilarating that he gave a shout of joy, and set off 
with renewed courage at an increased pace. 



vj*/i 



CHAPTER Vin 
THE MIDNIGHT MEETING 

The boy stiU had plenty of bear meat with him, 
and he decided not to seek game for the present. 
Instead, he luxuriated awhile under the trees and on 
the grass. The warmth was very generous and 
satisfying after so much snow and cold, and while 
Bob stiU admired the great white peaks and ranges, 
he felt that he had endured enough of them for the 
present. 

He bathed in one of the streams, finding the water 
extremely cold, and then descended the last slope. 
As he was about to emerge upon the plain he saw 
many hoofprints in the soft earth, and his heart 
gave a great bound. He had experience enough to 
know that the tracks were made by shod animals, 
not by wild ponies, and surely good luck had brought 
him at once upon the path of his comrades.. 

The trail was broad and plain. A child could 
have followed it, and Bob hurried forward, his heart 
still leaping. He judged that the trail could not be 
more than an hour old, and it was likely that he 
could overtake them in two hours, at the furthest. 

The footprints led straight away, through a fine 
forest of oak, without undergrowth, but with a soft 
turf in which the steel shoes sank deep. He came 
presently to a place at which they had evidently 
stopped. Fragments of food were scattered about, 

8 113 



« 



114 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

and the turf had been cropped close by the horses. 
Clearly they could be only a short distance ahead, 
and he increased his pace, eager to see them 
again. 

In ten miniites he heard the neigh of a horse, and 
he began to ran toward the sound. It was perhaps 
Providence itself that caused him to trip on a vine. 
He did not fall, but it brought him up with a jerk, 
mentally as well as physically. Then, remembering 
Sam Strong's injunction that in the West caution, 
caution, caution was the quality upon which life 
most depended, he sank down among some bushes 
and approached more carefully. 

The bushes ended and the ground dropped off 
into a sequestered little valley, in the center of 
which men were resting and smoking, and horses 
were grazing. But they were not his comrades nor 
their horses. He beheld instead a band of at least 
a score, dressed like hunters, and with hardened, 
evil faces. As they talked they swore great oaths, 
and although they were white men, Bob felt instinct- 
ively that he had exercised caution none too soon. 
The Cheyennes had not inspired less aversion. 

His eyes from his covert roamed over the men 
and alighted at last upon a face that he remembered. 
He could never forget that dark countenance, the 
black eyes set close together, and the cruel strength 
of the pointed chin. It was Juan Carver, trapper, 
free lance or representative of Hudson Bay, or 
something else still worse. Bob had listened wefl 
to Sam Strong and he never doubted that this band 
of men would try to rob his comrades of their fail| 



THE MIDNIOHT MEETING US 

if fhey obtained them, or be ready to do any other 
deed of wickedness that was to their profit They 
were men for him to avoid, and he thanked God for 
the kindly bnsh that had checked his headlong speed. 

Bob snrmised that they had fonnd an easier pass 
over the range than the one chosen by Strong, as 
they did not show much trace of suffering. Luck 
seemed to have favored them so far, and with a 
sigh of r^ret that it was so, he turned away. 

He surmised that the Carver party would remain 
some time in their resting-place, and he wished to 
be so far out on the plain that they could not see 
him when they started. He felt apprehension when 
he left the cover of the last line of bushes, but it 
nonst be done. 

The plain, as he had foreseen, was much like that 
Ofn the other side of the range, waving, treeless, 
and with grass now turning to green. He did not 
think it probable that men had passed that way 
lately, as three bunches of antelope were grazing in 
the distance, and for a little while Bob was in great 
depression. It indicated that he was on the wrong 
trail, and could not overtake his comrades. But he 
dared not go back and hunt for the right trail. 
There were Carver and his men whom he must 
svoid. 

He pressed forward all through the day, never 
stopping long at a time, but often looking back to 
see if he was followed. He did not see any moving 
dots on the plain behind him and he was greatly 
eneonraged thereby. It was hot, and he suffered 
from the sun, longing, as he thought he 



116 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

would never long again, for the snow of the high 
mountains. 

He crossed one shallow brook from which he 
drank, and at nightfall came to another, fairly well 
wooded along its banks, by the side of which he 
decided to sleep. 

He chose his place, well hidden in the bushes, lay 
down his blanket for softness, as the weather was 
too warm now to fold it about him, and fell asleep. 

The boy was awakened in the middle of a dark 
night by the sound of voices and the tread of horses. 
All his faculties were alive on the instant. Carver 
and his band had come, and he lay perfectly still 
xmder the bushes. The moonlight was so thin that 
he could not see any one, although he heard them 
distinctly. 

The sounds grew louder. They seemed to be 
coming straight towards him, and the boy, in spite 
of all his courage, had some minutes of nervous 
thinking. He decided to creep out of their path 
and deeper into the bushes. He made a yard or 
two silently, and then a twig snapped. 

**HereI Hold upl What's tiiatr* some one 
cried. 

^^A slinkin' coyote, I guess,*' replied another, and 
Bob Norton fairly leaped into the air at these two 
voices. It was Sam Strong who had asked the 
question, and it was Bill Cole who had replied. 

* ^ Sam 1 Bill I * * shouted the boy, rushing through 
the bushes. *^I'm here! and Vve found youT' 

The six men were all there on horseback, the pack 
horses following, and they had stopped short when 



THE MIDNIGHT MEETING 117 

he cried out. Now they sat motionless on their 
horses, staring at him, all except Louis Perolet who 
dropped his reins, crossed himself and began to 
patter out a prayer of his church. 

Sam Strong at last uttered a great gasp, and 
exclaimed : 

*'Well, if it ain't the youngster, after all, riz right 
up from the dead.'* 

*^It must be him," said Bill Cole, still half in 
doubt. *^He don't look like a ghost." 

In another instant they were all off their horses, 
shaking hands with him, punching him in the shoul- 
ders and chest to see that he was real, and showing 
as much delight as frontiersmen ever permit to 
themselves. Bob himself was overflowing with exu- 
berance, and shook every rough hand in return as 
hard as he could. 

^'I've always hoped for the best," said Sam 
Strong, **but I never dared to hope that you'd come 
back to us, shakin' your grave clothes off, so to 
speak. If you hadn't hollered out loud I guess we'd 
all have rid on, takin' it for granted that you wuz 
a ghost ha'ntin' us." 

**I could have believed it," said Tom Harris. 
**I remember a fellow killed at Chancellor sville 
when we was chasin' the rebels — " 

**Why, you never chased us at Chancellorsville, " 
exclaimed Porter Evans, indignantly. *^That was 
our greatest victory, an' — " 

**Well, you two generals shut up," said Sam 
Strong. **We ain't got time to fight the Civil War 
all over ag'in to-night. What we want to do is to 






matiL*- 



118 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

camp here, an ' hear the story of the yotmgster who 
has been right down into his grave, but who has 
come right out ag'in.^' 

They had been making a night watch, but they 
tethered their horses and camped, lighting no fire, 
however. Then Bob told the story of his fight for 
life in detail, broken now and then by expressions 
of wonder from his comrades. 

*'I'll hope for the best more than ever after 
this,*' said Sam Strong. *^You came through in 
great style. Tenderfoots, breakin* all rules, often 
do the right things, when the men that have seen an* 
done everything begin makin' mistakes right at the 
jump.** 

**It was not chance,** said Louis Perolet, gravely, 
**eet ees because Bob is the bright, smart boy. 
Why did the great Napoleon, when he was not much 
more than a boy, whip all the Austrian generals in 
Italy who were so much older than himself an* with 
so much experience? Eet was because he had the 
great min', the genius, an* when he saw he remem- 
bered. Meester Bob be the genius, too, in his own 
way.** 

*'Now you shut up,** exclaimed Bob, blushing. 
**It was luck, just as Sam says.** 

But Louis would not be denied his assumption. 
He insisted that Bob was a genius; that he had 
proved it, and that he was destined to become the 
greatest of frontiersmen, the superior in time of the 
redoutable Sam Strong himself. 

Strong was somewhat apprehensive over the news 
of Carver *s presence in the valley, but a careful 



THE MIDNIGHT MEETING 118 

examination showed that he and his band were not 
in the neighborhood. Then Sam told their own 
story. They had thought Bob lost when he fell 
down the snowy cliff, but nevertheless they had 
descended into the valley and searched two days for 
him. The falling snow, of course, had covered his 
footprints. At last they had given him up as dead 
— certainly the chance of his escape was most 
remote— and they had gone sadly on. They had 
suffered much from cold, but they had managed to 
get themselves and their horses that far into the 
valley. Their long search for Bob had caused them 
to arrive later than he. 

*^But we found you, — or you found us," said 
Louis Perolet, triumphantly, **an* eet ees the good 
omen. To escape so great a danger proves that we 
will find all we seek an* more. Our fortune has 
been good, an' we'll push it." 

**I reckon you're about right, Frenchy," said 
Sam Strong. *^The best has happened an' we'll 
hope for it ag'in, though I don't like the presence 
of Carver here." 

Strong did not fear an attack by Carver, as the 
man would have no object in making it now, but he 
did not like the way in which this band had hung 
upon his trail. It was the later days of the fur 
trade, and valleys, rich in furs, were hard to find. 
Battles oftai took place for their possession, and 
the powerful company north of the British line had 
poached more than once far down into the American 
mountains. 

**We can fight Carver an' his crowd if we have 



•j/?". 



■.-art5 



120 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

to do it,'' said Strong, **but we don't want to waste 
ourselves that way. What we want to do is to get 
furs, an' we've got to hide ourselves from both the 
Indians an' land pirates." 

*^I move," said Bill Cole, *Hhat we make double 
quick time to the next range of mountains an' then 
lay by in some thicket till Carver passes on. We 
can mark the course he takes, an' then choose 
another for ourselves." 

The suggestion seemed good to them all, and they 
advanced rapidly for three days until they reached 
the second mass of mountains. There they found 
good refuge among dense pines and cedars, where 
they stayed two days, kindling no fire. On the 
; second day Strong, Bob and Perolet, lying close in 
i a covert, saw Carver and his band go by. They 
followed them until they saw them high up in a pass, 
going almost due west. Then they returned to 
camp, satisfied that Bill Cole's suggestion had been 
a happy one. 

Sam Strong immediately turned his own expedi- 
tion southward, marching along the flank of the 
mountain. Bob once more rode his own horse. 
He had suffered somewhat from fever, brought on 
by exposure and his great sufferings, and he had 
collapsed when they stopped to let Carver pass, but 
the rest had restored him entirely. Traveling now 
on one 's own horse was a luxury, after his struggles 
in the snowy pass. 

They kept a good watch for the Utes and Ara- 
pahoes or wandering Apaches who sometimes 
strayed far northward, but saw none. The slopes. 




THE MIDNIGHT MEETING 121 

along which they were traveling, seemed to be 
wholly neglected by the tribes, as game was plen- 
tiful, and not especially wary. 

After three days of the southern march at good 
speed they stopped to refresh their horses, and to 
renew their stock of provisions. They pitched a 
camp in one of the pleasantest places that the boy 
had yet seen, an open grove, with a clear little 
brook running through it. They stayed three 
days there, and killed several deer, including a 
splendid elk. Trout were caught in some deep 
pools of the stream, and proved to be of fine 
quality. 

While they were resting. Strong revealed to Bob 
more of their plans. When they crossed the second 
range, a great mass of mountains tumbled together, 
they would advance southwestward, and enter once 
more the region of mountains, a huge system that 
extended with larger or smaller breaks almost to the 
Pacific. Hidden in these ranges were the beaver 
streams, some of which no white man had yet 
reached, and, along these, they expected to find a 
rich reward. 

It was all one to the boy. He did not care where 
they went, as long as they retained him a member of 
this chosen band. His devotion to the six men, who 
had treated him so well, grew as the days passed, 
and he took fresh resolutions to repay them no mat- 
ter what the cost. 

It was now midsummer, but they did not hurry, as 
furs would not be in good condition until October. 
Whej frequently made stops of a day or two, and, in 



L-.- 



122 , HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

one wide valley, they chased a herd of mustangs. 
Sam Strong and Bill Cole succeeded in catching five 
with their lariats, and they were skilful enough to 
break them to their service. 

** They '11 come in handy,'' said Sam. **Each of 
'em can carry back five hundred pounds of smooth, 
soft beaver skins." 

**We'll get 'em," said Bob, with enthusiasm. 

Sam smiled benevolently. The boy's freshness 
and enthusiasm had added new life to the little 
party. 

"It will be a full two weeks yet," he said, "before 
we're at the beaver streams, an' then we've got to 
spend some time in locatin' an' makin' traps." 

The maze of mountains deepened. Now and 
then they rode up great canyons, with cliflfs a thou- 
sand feet high, on either side, and small streamis 
trickling down the center of the canyons over 
masses of rough bowlders. The wilderness seemed 
to Bob so vast and so little peopled that he wondered 
how anybody could ever find anybody else in it. 
Apprehension in regard to Carver and his band dis- 
appeared from his mind, and apparently it was for- 
gotten by the others also. 

When the summer was well past, they came to a 
ravine, and deep valley, through which flowed a 
creek, emptying about ten miles further on into 
a river. The creek could be followed thirty or forty 
miles back into the mountains, and, for the full dis- 
tance, it was thickly lined with trees and bushes. 
Many of the trees had been cut down as neatly as if 
it had been done with an axe, but Sam Strong ezr 



•A 



■•I 






THE MIDNIGHT MEETING 123 

plained to Bob that the weapon used was the teeth 
of the beaver. 

^^This is the best of the beaver streams that we 
had in mind,** he said, **an* we're goin* to trap 
along here an' on others not far away, all through 
the winter." 

They went np the creek about twenty miles fur- 
ther, until they came to a point where the valley 
widened out somewhat, and here Sam Strong chose 
the camp. He could not have found a more favor- 
able spot. On either side of the creek, between the 
trees and the steep slope of the mountains, was a 
meadow, several acres in extent, covered with deep 
rich grass. The horses would find ample grazing 
here, and the trees and the mountains together 
would give them protection in winter. As for wa- 
ter, there was the creek. 

On the northern side, the meadows made a little 
bay into the mountain, and here, in a smooth spot, 
with a clump of oaks circling about it, they selected 
their camp. They pitched their tents, and turned 
the horses loose in the meadow. 

**It will be fine, here in the tents," said Bob. 

Sam Strong smiled. 

"It's fine now," he said, "but it won't be fine, 
when winter comes. No, Bob, we are goin' to build 
our house. Trappers, who expect to stay a long 
time in one place, must have a house." 

They began the task with great energy the very 
next day. They were well supplied with axes, 
and seven pairs of strong arms soon felled the 
x^ujsite number of trees. These were cut into 



\i\ .J ^ 



124 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

even lengths, and squared at the «nds. The bark 
was left on. 

Then they built a large log cabin, with a lean-to 
in the rear. The space between the logs was 
chinked up with mud and chips. It was provided 
with a puncheon floor, a stone fireplace and a stick 
chimney. There were two windows, with swinging 
board shutters, and the roof was covered with shin- 
gles of their own splitting. All the men had had 
plenty of experience at this kind of building, and the 
work was done in a week. 

** There she is,*' said Sam Strong, triumphantly. 
**Eain tight, wind tight, snow tight, an' cold tight.'* 

They marked off on the inside seven spaces, one 
for every man. There he was to spread his bed of 
blankets, fur, or whatever he wished, and that space 
was to remain his own. But they slept, for a while, 
outside under the tents, and the cabin would remain 
without occupants, until the cold weather began. 

They devoted nearly two weeks to the making of 
traps, embracing all the varieties known to the 
skilled hunters of furs. They had steel traps with 
them, but the new ones that they made of wood were 
far more numerous. Then they explored for miles 
around, seeking the best places in which to put them. 
Bob went on most of these expeditions, and invari- 
ably he was with Sam Strong. His sense of locality 
and his trapper's eye developed amazingly. In a very 
short time he became almost the equal of Strong 
in noticing the **runs" and other signs of wild life, 
and no matter how complicated the plexus of the 
mountains, it was almost impossible to lose him. 



THE MIDNIGHT MEETING 125 

About thirty miles up the creek, which flowed 
almost due west, there was a rift in the mountains 
opening to the southward. Following it they came 
to another narrow creek which flowed, on a parallel 
line with this one, toward the river. This also 
proved to be stocked with beaver, and they set traps 
here as well, building another and a smaller log 
cabin on its banks, a necessity to them, as it could 
not be reached in a day's journey from their first 
house. 

The foliage began to turn red and brown now with 
the first touch of October. Everything was ready 
and the trapping began. 



>>*■■ J". •-■. • 



CHAPTER IX 

THE SUNKEN RIVER 

n 

The days that followed were full of activity and 
interest for Bob and all his comrades. The trap- 
ping was the best that any of them had ever found, 
and before the winter began, they were packing the 
beaver pelts in bales. They also took skins of the 
grizzly and silver tip, but they devoted themselves 
chiefly to the beaver. 

**A11 kind of pelts are good,'' said Sam Strong, 
*^but our big market is St. Louis, an' it's a long way 
from here to St. Louis. So we've got to consider 
the question of transportation an' carry the thing 
that weighs the least to the pound, an' that's 
beaver. ' ' 

**It counts in more ways than in trappin'," said 
Tom Harris. **If we hadn't had to take so many 
provisions into the South with us we'd have licked 
the rebels in one year, instead of taking four for 
the job. 

They were sitting before the fire in their cabin, 
when Tom made this speech in a tone of finality. 
Porter Evans at once sprang to his feet. 

**If you hadn't been lucky you never would have 
wonl" he exclaimed. ** Besides, you didn't really 
win. As I told you before we got tired an' reckoned 
that we ought to go home, an' look after our cro] 

^^Shut up," said Sam Strong, ^'I'm always hcKpiil! 

126 



' . ,T 




THE SUNKEN RIVER 127 

for the best, an' I'm hopin' that some day yon fel- 
lows will forget the war. ' ' 

A few minntes later the two were indnstrionsly 
scraping the inside of a grizzly bearskin. 

It was announced to Bob, late in November, that 
he wonld have a fnll share in the trapping, that 
there would be seven equal portions, one of which 
was to be his. He demurred, saying that he was 
entitled only to a half-share, but the others insisted. 
He had done his full part in every respect, and so 
he was compelled to acquiesce. 

The year waned and cold gales began to roar up 
the valleys and canyons, although much red and 
brown foliage was yet left on the slopes. All the 
horses had grown fat on the grass of the meadows, 
and Harris and Evans now built them a shelter 
among the trees. They made, on three sides, a 
windbreak of thick, woven bushes, and carried it 
slightly overhead in the form of an arch. When 
completed it was a really admirable shelter for 
their hardy mustangs, both Harris and Evans being 
skilful at such work. It would protect entirely 
from the wind, and, in a great measure, from snow 
also. The ponies soon learned its advantages, and, 
as the nights increased in coldness, entered it, with- 
out being driven. 

About ten days after the completion of the stable, 
as the two builders proudly called it, the party sat 
late by their cabin fire. The day had not been a 
hard one and Evans and Harris, who were in fine 
form, were telling stories, more or less highly col- 
oredy generally highly, of the Civil War, with Sam 






128 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

r 

Strong, as a discreet umpire, to prevent verbal 
encounters between them. 

The fire was a good one. The dry logs crackled, 
and cast up merry flames. Genial warmth filled 
the cabin, and the roaring of the cold wind without 
made it all the more pleasant inside the log house. 
Bob was lying upon a grizzly bearskin, his chin 
upon his hand, listening, with all his soul, to the 
stories. It seemed wonderful to him that these two 
comrades of his should have been through such 
great battles. He ran over the names to himself, 
Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga, 
The Wilderness, and the others. 

**But though them was tre-men-jeous big bat- 
tles,'' said Tom Harris, **you was safe after you 
was captured. Porter, here, knew that when I told 
him he wouldn't get hurt — that's right, Sam, make 
him keep still till I get through. As I was sayin', if 
you lived long enough to be captured you was all 
right; so it's safer fightin' white men than it is 
Sioux or Cheyennes. When you're captured by 
them your troubles are just beginin.' Why I — " 

Every man of the seven leaped to his feet, as a 
scream of pain and terror, the like of which the 
boy had never heard before, rose above the roaring 
of the wind. Bob's blood ran chill in his veins. 
The scream was repeated, and Sam Strong ex- 
claimed : 

**It's one of our horses, an' like as not a grizzly 
bear is among 'em. Come quick with your rifles I" 

Every man seized his weapon and rushed for the 
door, Sam Strong leading. The night was.darl^ 



■ ■ • . 

t . J - - 



THE SUNKEN KIVER 129 

but a terrible commotion came from the stable. 
The horses were plunging and rearing, and as they 
ran forward two, wild with terror, dashed past 
them. Bob kept just at the heels of Sam Strong, 
and as his eyes grew used to the darkness he saw 
a huge, dusky figure at the entrance to the stable, 
and then another. 

**It's the grizzlies!'* cried Sam Strong. "A 
whole tribe of 'em 1 Shoot as fast as you can, but 
look out for the horses 1" 

He fired at the first of the bears, and the huge 
brute, turning instantly, charged straight at him. 
That would have been the last night of Sam Strong, 
great hunter, trapper and Indian fighter, had not 
a boy, whom he had befriended, been just behind 
him, eager and ready with a loaded rifle. 

Bob poked the muzzle of his weapon past Sam's 
shoulder, and fired point-blank into the eyes of the 
raging brute. 

A grizzly bear has great vitality, but he cannot 
live with a bullet in his brain. Sam Strong felt 
the hot breath of his foe on his face, he saw those 
long, iron claws reached out to destroy him, and he 
may have felt, for a moment, that he was lost, but 
the great bear fell at his feet, stone dead. He 
turned and said only three words: 

*' Good boy, Bobl'' 

But they were the sweetest words that had ever 
sounded in Bob Norton's ears. He had saved the 
life of his chief, and that chief had given him 
praise. Meanwhile another huge, snarling form 
was charging, but Cole, Perolet and Obadiah Pirtle 



- - ■ m 



130 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

poured bullets into it, and it fell near the first. 
Two smaller ones ran, but the men followed and 
slew them at the banks of the creek. 

**Now, Bob,*' said Sam Strong, **you run back 
to the cabin an' bring us a torch, an' we'll see jest 
what's been done here." 

The boy, still trembling with excitement, obeyed, 
but by the time he returned with the light, the men 
had succeeded to some extent in quieting the horses, 
that is, all that were left in the stable, four being 
on the missing list. When Bob held up his torch 
he disclosed a genuine field of battle. Four griz- 
zlies lay dead, two there and two at the creek, and 
one horse had deep parallel gashes along his shoul- 
der. Sam Strong read all the signs with an unerr- 
ing eye. 

**It was a family of bears," he said, "father, 
mother, an' two boys. They smelled them horses, 
an' them horses smelled mighty good to 'enh 
They crept up an' old pa grizzly here made a 
jump. He meant to light on old Baldy, the 
strongest an' fightenest of the lot. He missed just 
what he was aimin' for, but he did give old Baldy 
a rake, an' then the flood turned loose. Mustangs, 
like ours, can kick fast an' powerful hard, but if 
we hadn't come so quick a lot of our best horses 
would have been chawed up." 

It was indeed a providential rescue, as they relied 
upon the horses to get both themselves and their 
furs back to civilization, and it was a danger that 
might occur again. 

**The care of the horses belongs mainly to Porter j 






THE SUNKEN KIVER 

an' Tom,** said Strong, **an* they've got to fix np 
somethin' that will keep any more bears away, long 
enongh for ns to come. Now, Bob, we'll help skin 
the lot, 'canse their hides are worth havin*. 
Besides, Lonis, here, can get some pretty good 
steaks off the young ones.'* 

They spent nearly the whole night skinning the 
grizzlies and cutting them up. Fierce mountain 
wolves, attracted by the odor, came down and 
prowled so near that they were forced to shoot 
several of them. The horses were continually 
uneasy, and the best efforts of Harris and Evans 
could not quiet them. 

The two ** generals'* the next day entirely closed 
the fourth side of the ** stable" with thorny brush 
which they removed every night and morning for 
the horses to pass in and out. They attached this 
brush rather strongly with bark, and Sam Strong 
gave his full approval. 

** You've done well, boys," he said to Harris and 
Evans. *^Not even a grizzly could butt through 
that without makin' a noise, an' by that time we 
could be on the spot." 

Strong had said nothing more to Bob about the 
shot that saved him from the bear, but the boy 
noticed that the leader showed a great increase of 
confidence in him. He took him with him on nearly 
all his expeditions, and often these lasted several 
days. Strong did not work steadily at the details 
of trapping. He left the bulk of it to the others 
while he explored for new beaver streams, or for 
signs of other game wearing furs that would be of 



&. 



132 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

value in the great markets. He had a wonderful 
**scenf for beaver, and found many new dams 
along these unknown little mountain streams. 
Bob was now his comrade, and made two or three 
discoveries on his own account which elated him 
mightily, and increased his confidence. 

Despite the growing cold, Strong and the boy, 
when on their expeditions, frequently slept in the 
bush along the slopes. They discarded their blan- 
kets, and made for themselves sleeping bags of fur, 
somewhat like the sleeping bag of the Arctic, and 
with these they practically defied cold. 

On one of their journeys they went down the 
creek to its mouth. It was a clear mountain 
stream, emptying itself into a river, which al8i| 
came from a mountain, and was clear. Strong saf 
down on a rock and looked meditatively at the 
larger stream. 

**Bob,*' he said, **do you know what river this 
is?'' 

**No,'' replied the boy, **I don't. Perhaps not 
enough people have seen it to name it." 

**Yes, they have," said Sam Strong. '*This is 
one of the headwaters of the Colorado, an' we'll call 
it the Colorado. Maybe you never heard of the 
Colorado, Bob, but old Spaniards saw it more than 
three hundred years ago, an' Indians an' hunters 
say it's the funniest river on earth." 

*'How so?" asked Bob. 

**It runs along for a spell as if it didn't mean 
more than any other river; specially these of the 
mountains, dodgin' 'roun' hills, dashin' throi 



THE SUNKEN RIVER 133 

rock-cuts, foamin' over bowlders, an' cuttin* np 
such didos. Lots of rivers do that, but with this 
river the hills keep gettin' higher, the rock-cuts 
deeper, an' the bowlders bigger. Then the river 
itself runs faster an' faster. An' the faster it gets 
the deeper it sinks into the earth. Down, down it 
goes until you just see a ribbon of sky overhead, 
an' it goes on that way, they say, for hundreds of 
miles, rippin' an' roarin' an' dashin'." 

The brown face of the trapper was illuminated 
as he spoke. The look there was not that of one 
who sought gain, it was the gaze of the explorer, 
gazing into vast, vague regions, and seeking by 
some power of the mind to penetrate their mystery. 
Some such look as this must have been in the eyes 
OT Columbus when he faced the Western Ocean. 

**Does the river keep on that way forever t" 
asked Bob, catching his leader's spirit. 

*' Nobody knows," replied Strong. **It's one of 
the mysteries of the earth. This river goes right 
on, cuttin' right through mountains, not turnin' 
their flanks, but slashin' the solid stone right 
across, same as if God had done it with a sword- 
blade. I've heard tales that 'way off into the 
southwest it sinks down into the earth so far— well, 
so far it ain't worth while to tell it, 'cause you 
wouldn't believe it, an' then again I've heard that it 
runs clean underground, comes out maybe a thou- 
sand miles further on, an' goes into the Pacific." 

** Which do you believe?" asked Bob. 

**I don't know, but I do know that this is the 
riproarin'est, strangest river on top of this ball of 



*'^:ti::: 



134 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

ours, an' I want to know more about it. I want 
to satisfy my curiosity, an' I think there must be 
lots of beaver on the streams runnin' into it. We 
mean to stay 'roun' in these parts about two years, 
Bob, an' busmess an' pleasure can go together. 
Next year I mean to go down the Colorado, lookin' 
for beaver streams, an' if you want to go with me, 
Bob, all you've got to do is to say so." 

*^0f course I'll go, and thank you for taking 
me," exclaimed Bob, eagerly. 

**Then it's settled, but don't say anything about 
it now to the boys. Jest put it in the back of your 
head, an' keep it there." 

Strong made no further mention of the subject 
even then, but he sat long staring at the mysterious 
river, and the boy, whose eyes followed his, shared 
the spell. They were deep in the wilderness now, 
but this stream would carry t^em into regions yet 
wilder and grander. 

The two slept that night within sight of the 
river, and in the morning the first snow came. 
They were back at the cabin by the next sundown, 
and found the rest of the party there. Strong 
hoped for an open winter, but no one could tell what 
was coming, and they made ample provision against 
every emergency, laying in great quantities of food 
and firewood. Despite the skim of snow, the grass 
was still fresh on the meadows, and the horses were 
fat and full of life. There had been a second alarm 
of bears, but the thorn fence served its purpose^ 
and they fled in the darkness before the trappers 
could get a chance at them with their rifles. 



THE SUNKEN RIVER 135 

The winter, to their great satisfaction, proved to 
be a mild one, and the trapping could be carried on 
with only a few breaks. Twice there were bliz- 
zards, but on each occasion they were present at 
the cabin, with the stout door shut and a big fire 
roaring on the hearth. 

*' Just think, '^ said Louis Perolet, when the second 
blizzard was at its height, *4t was in such weather 
as this that the great Napoleon an' hees French 
soldiers retreated from Moscow. Only French sol- 
diers can stand such a wind an' such cold." 

**As I've heard it, Frenchy," said Porter Evans, 
**not many of Napoleon's soldiers ever got back." 

"That's what I've heard, too," said Tom Harris. 
**Now, we licked the rebels like thunder at Gettys- 
burg, as Porter Evans there knows, though he won't 
admit it, but if Napoleon an' his French had been 
in their place we wouldn't have left a grease spot 
of 'em." 

"Bah," said Perolet, "eef ze great Napoleon had 
been at Gettysburg he would have taken the Yankee 
army by one ear, an' the rebel army by the other 
ear; he would knock their heads together an' then 
he would say, 'go away an' play, leetle boys, mebbe 
when you grow up you can fight'." 

Sam Strong laughed. 

*'He had you there, boys," he said, "an' what's 
more, he believes it." 

But there was no animosity. Perolet, a few 
minutes later, was serving both "generals" with 
especially delicate pieces of beaver tail. The bliz- 
zard died down, passed, and they renewed their 



136 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

trapping. Christmas came, was celebrated dxdy, 
and then they went far into the New Year. For- 
tune was certainly good to them. All agreed that 
they had never known such trapping before. The 
furs were not only abundant, but of the highest 
quality, and if the second season proved as good 
as the first, they would return eastward with all 
their horses could carry. 

But Sam Strong did not forget the Colorado. He 
was a man who looked far ahead. He knew that 
beaver streams were soon trapped out, and he 
wanted to have others in reserve. Partly for that 
reason, and partly because the mystery of the river 
called to him, he kept it continually in mind. When 
the winter began to break up he spoke of it to the 
entire party- 

**We are goin* to stay here all of another year," 
he said, **an' not only that, after this tripes finished 
we're comin' back ag'in as long as the furs last. 
Now it is important for us to know where to fijid 
beaver, an^ to know it before anybody else. Sum- 
mer's no good for trappin', so it's my idea as soon 
as the spring is well opened out to go down the river 
on a boat, spyin' out the country. I want Bill, Obe 
an' Bob to go with me. T'other three can stay 
here, look after the horses an* furs, an' fight ofE 
Carver if he comes." 

The agreement was soon made, and as soon as 
the weather admitted they began the task of build- 
ing a strong boat. Trappers often carry their furs 
by boats, and they had provided iron spikes and 
other suitable materials for such a Gontingency. 



IV 



THE SUNKEN KIVER 137 

Seven pairs of strong and skilled hands built fast, 
and their craft was soon ready. 

The boat was somewhat clumsy perhaps, but it 
was exceedingly strong. It was about twenty feet 
long, and a tarpaulin of skins was stretched tightly 
over the deck, as Sam Strong foresaw much rough 
water. It was shallow, and there were two pairs of 
heavy oars. All the provisions were packed under 
Sam Strong's direction in tightly closed skin bags. 
The ammunition and two extra rifles were protected 
in the same way, and a small supply of medicines 
was also placed aboard. 

** There '11 be a lot of rough goin*,** said Sam 
Strong. ** Falls an' currents an' eddies an' such 
like, an' mebbe, if our boat should turn over, we 
could get a lot of our things out, still dry an' 
useful." 

The warm weather had fully come when they 
were ready for departure. The boat had been bmlt 
at a point on the creek about four miles from its 
mouth, and the two ** generals" and Louis Perolet 
were there to see the four adventurers leave upon 
their great trip. Strong and Bob were forward, 
and Cole and Obadiah were near the stem. 

**6ood-by," said the three on the bank together, 
and reaching down they gave every one in turn a 
hearty grip. 

"I don't know how far we'll go an' I guess we'll 
have to walk back," said Strong, **but we'll be here 
again before the summer is over." 

The signal was given, and all four pulled at the 
oars. Their boat, which they had aptly named 






• 138 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

'^The Columbus/' glided smoothly down the stream. 
Bob had been eager for the great adventure, but he 
could not help feeling a deep regret now as they 
left behind them their three comrades and their 
pleasant camp. They might never return. No one 
had allowed himself to speak of such a thought, but 
the possibility was there. 

He gave the three who still stood on the bank a 
long look, and then, taking off his fur cap, waved it 
to them. They waved in reply, and a few moments 
later, trees and a curving bank hid them from view. 

''Good fellers, *' said Sam Strong, in a tone of 
strong approval, ''but some mighty battles will be 
fought back there at the camp while we're gone. 
Porter an' Tom will go through the whole Civil War, 
never agreein' on a thing, an' then Louis will step 
in with the great Napoleon an' show that both are 
always wrong." 

Bob laughed, and homesickness did not then tug 
quite so hard at his heart. They reached the mouth 
of the creek, rowed into the middle of the river, and 
let the boat drift with the current. Bill Cole, with 
little effort, keeping it in the right course. 

They drifted all that day, the strength of the 
current increasing perceptibly. Every one of the 
four took his turn at steering, but they did not yet 
have any trouble. The water flowed smoothly on 
between shores not yet very high, although on either 
horizon were lofty mountains, dark with pines on 
the slopes, and white on the crests with snow. 
Towards night the river widened somewhat, and 
passed between cliffs about six hundred feet high. 



THE SUNKEN RIVER 139 

At fhe highest point on the right bank, a great 
silver tip bear stood looking down at The Colum- 
bus. Bob gazed straight up at the bear, and it was 
rather a singular fact that no one of the four, 
hunters and trappers though they were, wanted to 
shoot at him. 

**I wonder what he thinks of us,'* said the boy. 

'*Mebbe he has seen white men before,*' said 
Bill Cole, **but it's the first time that he's ever seen 
'em goin' down this river in a boat." 

It was twilight when they passed the gorge, and 
running the boat into a little cove, they made it fast 
to some bushes for the night. All four were glad 
to step ashore, and stretch their cramped limbs, 
although the place was not particularly attract- 
ive, merely a sandy beach, clumps of dwarfed 
bushes, and back of them high and steep hills. The 
wind, blowing down the stream, was quite cold at 
the coming of the night, and Strong decided to build 
a fire. Plenty of dry driftwood, thrown up by 
floods, was scattered about, and in five minutes a 
big fire cast its welcome glow over the gloomy cove. 

**We'll cook here," said Sam Strong, **but I 
think we'd better sleep in the boat. You can never 
tell in these regions when Indians will come, an' in 
that case we'd have no thin' to do but cut the rope 
an' get away. Still I'm hopin' for the best, an' I 
don't think they'll come." 

Desolate howls came from the peaks, but the four 
only laughed. They knew the mountain wolves too 
well to pay any attention to their lament. They 
took watches of three hours apiece, and were off 



\'X 



140 eOBSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

again the next morning at the first flush of dawn. 
Before noon they were further down the river than 
either Strong or Cole had ever heen before, and 
the current was growing decidedly strong. They 
passed the mouth of another river, equal in size to 
their own, and the two streams united were now of 
great volume and power. 

The second and third day passed, and they were 
now in regions incomparably wild and grand. The 
river, yellow with soil washed in its rapid flight, 
grew swift and turbulent. The four always sat 
with oars in their hands watching for rocks, whirl- 
pools or falls. Often the spray and foam dashed 
all over them, but the skin tarpaulin kept their 
precious stores and ammunition dry. 

It was tiring work. The sharp point of a rock 
might sink their boat at any time, or they might 
be dashed in pieces down a fall. The inattention of 
a single moment could prove fatal. But Bob, 
though his bones ached, felt all the wild thrill of 
their mysterious journey. None was readier at the 
oar than he. None had a quicker eye, and the blood 
raced through his veins as the river moved on in 
its steadily deepening channel. 

They plunged sometimes between banks two thou- 
sand feet in height, again the banks sank to low 
hills, and blacktail deer scurried away at their 
approach. The cliffs were generally bare, but now 
and then early flowers bloomed brightly in the 
crannies. Evergreens were abundant on the crests, 
and on the beaches, where they camped, they always 
found an abundance of driftwood for fires. Then, 



:4i. 



THE SUNKEN ElVER 141 

followed long nights of deep sleep, and in the morn- 
ing Bob's aching bones would be well again. 

The fourth camp was made at the mouth of a 
small creek, flowing in from the east between banks 
a thousand feet high, and as steep as the side of a 
church. Strong examined the creek carefully, and 
decided the next morning to go up it as far as they 
could in the boat. 

** We're lookin' for beaver streams,'' he said, 
**an' this seems a likely one to me. Leastways I'm 
hopin' for the best." 

Their boat was of shallow draught, and they were 
able to row it at least ten miles up the creek. On 
the way they found that it received two or three 
small tributaries and that the mountains were much 
lower here. Strong's surmise about beaver proved 
correct. They found fine colonies along all the 
streams. It seemed to be absolutely virgin terri- 
tory, so far as trappers were concerned, but they 
touched nothing. They had no way to carry out 
the furs, as they could not row back against the 
stream, and after they had taken careful note of 
the country they returned to the river. 

**We'll come here some day by land with plenty 
of horses and mules," said Sam Strong, "an' then 
them beaver had better look out.'* 



^^- • -f 



CHAPTEE X 
THE RETURN BY LAND 

All four enjoyed the rest on the beaver stream, as 
explorations even were a relaxation after the rush 
and strain of the river, but they re-embarked with 
a willing spirit, first replenishing their supplies with 
a blacktail deer that Bill Cole shot. 

The Columbus swung once more into the yellow 
stream, and it seemed to Bob, looking down a vast 
chasm, that they were going to enter the very bowels 
of the earth. All around them now were great 
heights of black lava, and back of these, snow- 
capped mountains. But nothing interrupted the 
rush of the river. That very day it turned a vast 
mass of rock, at so sharp an angle that, despite the 
promptness and exertions of the four. The Colum- 
bus grazed it. Bob thought they were gone, but 
the blow was only a glancing one. The boat tipped 
dangerously to one side, and foaming water dashed 
over them all, but the stout wooden sides were not 
broken in. The Columbus righted itself, and away 
they went with the white water whirling about them. 
When they were fairly steady Obadiah Pirtle took 
off his cap and said to the boy : 

''Bob, has my hair turned gray in the last five 
minutes 1 ' * 

They had smoother going the next day, and in the 
afternoon they discovered another beaver stream^ 

149 




THE BETXJBN BY LAND 143 

this time coining in from the west. Sam Strong 
marked it carefully on a rude map that he was 
making. 

"We^l be back here, too, some day,'* he said, "if 
nobody beats us to it. I like to hope for the best, 
but I shouldn't be surprised if Carver an' his band 
were down in these parts somewhere. Carver's a 
good trapper, an' he's always ready, too, for any 
other business that's likely to pay. I believe that 
he's hand in glove with the Indians." 

**I hope we'll never see him again," said Bob. 

Sam was silent. He knew better than the boy the 
dangers of mountain and plain. 

Occasionally when they tied up to the rocks, or in 
the coves, they tried fishing in the muddy water. 
They caught a number of fish, but they did not 
prove to be very good, and Bob greatly preferred 
the flesh of a second blacktail deer, which fell this 
time to the rifle of Obadiah Pirtle. 

They had been on the river a week when the 
mountains sank down somewhat, and they floated 
between banks only three or four hundred feet high, 
covered with thin forest. The current was not so 
rapid, and they enjoyed a period of comparative 
ease, being released from the imminent fear of rocks 
and rapids. 

Bob was sitting in the prow of The Columbus, 
leaning against the side. He had no particular 
duties just then, and he was in a half dreamy state, 
gazing upward at the blue sky which was soft with 
the breath of springtime. His gaze wandered to 
the banks, crested with green, and suddenly he sat 



144 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

I 

up a little straighter in the boat. He looked again, 
thinking that perhaps he had been tricked by the 
' imagination. But he beheld the same figure, that 
wf a man standing by a tree at the very brink. 
Then he saw two more, three more, a half dozen, 
and they were Indians. 

**LookI look!'^ he cried to the others. ** There 
are warriors on the bank I ' ^ 

Sam Strong shot a swift glance upward. 

**So there are,'* he said, **an' they're goin' to 
do us harm if they can. Bill, you an' Obe hold the 
boat steady, an' lay low everybody." 

Bob lay almost flat in the boat, but he held his 
rifle ready. They could now see the Indians. They 
were about a dozen in number, and their intentions 
were plainly hostile. 

Something whizzed in the air, there was a streak, 
and a long feathered arrow struck in the stream 
near the boat. 

**Bows an' arrows!" said Sam Strong, cheer- 
fully. ** They '11 have to use something better if 
they catch us." 

**WhizI whiz!" went the arrows, striking in the 
stream, and some on the boat. One buried its 
barbed head deep in the wood, near Bob, and he 
shuddered when he saw it. He would rather have 
been struck by a bullet than by an arrow. 

The boat was already moving rapidly, but Cole 
and Pirtle took the oars and increased the speed. 
The Indians could be seen running along the bank 
to keep pace. Part of them were now ahead of the 
boat^ and were gathering at a place, where the diffii 



■ i; 




'As il Hiint tliniiifili the ii»iutli of tlii' puss it tcmk a foaming fall" 



THE EETXJKN BY LAND 147 

what difficult task, as the current still pulled, even 
at the shallow edge of the river, but, finally, they 
half -beached her on the sand, and tied her stoutly 
to some dwarf greasewood. 

The four, when the task of securing The Colum- 
bus was finished, sat down on the sand, and drew 
deep, mighty breaths of relief. 

''Hopin^ for the best as I always try to do," said 
Sam Strong, **I was afraid of the worst when we 
came through that jug's mouth of a place, with all 
them Indians whoopin' an' yellin' an' fillin' the air 
with bullets an' arrows." 

**I'd rather look back at it than forward to it," 
said Obadiah Pirtle, tersely. 

'^What kind of Indians were they?" asked Bob. 

Sam Strong cut one of the arrows from the boat, 
and examined the sharp stone head critically. 

'*Utes, I should say," he replied, *'an' it's lucky 
they couldn't get at us any better than they did. 
The river itself is mighty dangerous, but the banks 
are so high they mostly keep the Indians out of 
range." 

They decided to remain where they were for the 
night, and they knew that they were absolutely 
safe from the Ute band. They were at the east 
edge of the river and the Utes were on the west 
bank. The Colorado now flowed between the cliffs 
high, steep and unbroken, and it was impossible 
for the warriors to cross it. They had so much 
faith in this protection that all four went to sleep 
at once on the boat, leaving no sentinel. Exhaus- 
tion gripped them so hard that none awoke until 






148 HOBSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

the Sim was high the next day, and they decided to 
remain there until the following morning, especially 
as they wished to make a critical examination of 
The Columbns. 

The good boat had passed the dangers wonder- 
fnlly well. Her sides were scarred, where she had 
grazed the rocks more than once, bnt no cut was 
deep enough to require patching, and, the next morn- 
ing, they set out again, with confidence in the boat 
and themselves increased. 

Then followed a week of extreme danger and 
great wonders. Bob had scarcely credited to the 
full the tales of Sam Strong, but he found every- 
thing to be true. The river dropped down into a 
mighty chasm. All that they had seen before was 
merely the beginning. Now the cliffs, sometimes 
black basalt, and again red and yellow, rose far 
above them, so far that even if Indians had been 
standing on the bank they could not have been told 
from the shrubs that grew there. It might be a 
half mile or it might be a nolle to the top. No one 
on the boat could tell. 

Nor was the height of the cliffs the only wonder. 
The storms of the ages had carved them into strange 
and fantastic shapes. Bob's imaginative mind 
could make out towers and churches, vaster than 
any ever built by man, over which the light played 
in the most vivid fashion, now yellow, now red, now 
green, and all the blended shades. 

All of them began to believe that the story of the 
subterranean river would prove true. The Color- 
ado, sinking lower and lower, must finally plnnga 



THE BETURN BY LAND 149 

into the earth itself. Presently they might reach 
cliffs that had no break, no place where they could 
land, and carried on by the great torrent they must 
go underground with it. This thought was in the 
mind of every one of them, but none would speak it. 

Their hardships increased also. One day they 
suffered five hours from a bitter storm of sleet and 
hail, from which they could not protect themselves, 
owing to the necessity of being always at the oars. 
The deep channel of the river, that immense slash 
in the mountains, seemed to serve as a sort of funnel 
down which the wind was drawn, shrieking with a 
power and ferocity that Bob had never heard before, 
and sending the hail and sleet like volleys from 
shotguns. Blood was actually drawn more than 
once from the hands and faces of the four. The 
river, too, was at its fiercest, demanding every exer- 
tion of eye and hand, and the time came when Bob 
tried to resign himself to death. 

But resignation with the boy did not imply giving 
up. He still struggled at his oar, obeying all the 
signals of Strong, and after a long time the storm 
passed, leaving them cold, wet and stiff. Strong 
brought out a bottle from the stores and made every 
one take a big drink, but they were still in such 
a state that they managed The Columbus with 
difficulty. 

Strong grew very anxious. In such a condition 
they could not fight forever against this ferocious 
river, and unless they found anchorage they must 
I>erish through sheer exhaustion. He compelled 
Bob, although the boy was very unwilling, to ship 






150 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

his oars, and crawl under the tarpaulin, while he 
sought for any sign of a break in the cliffs that 
woidd afford anchorage. 

It was after nightfall when Strong's keen eyes, 
piercing the dark, saw another canyon entering the 
mightier one down which the Colorado flowed. 

''Hurrah, boys!" he cried. ''We've hoped for 
the best, an' it's happened. All hands to the oars 
now, an' we'll row np the tributary!" 

They swung The Columbus into the second 
canyon, and found themselves on the bosom of a 
stream quite different from the Colorado. It was 
shallow and slow-moving, and when Bob dipped 
down with a cup he found its waters bitter with salt 
and brine. 

It comes from alkali plains somewhere," said Bill 
Cole. "A river ought to be ashamed of itself for 
bein' as dirty an' bitter as this is, but anyway it's 
doin' us a good turn, an' we oughtn't to complain." 

They rowed far up the tributary in the moonlight, 
but it was nearly midnight before they came to low 
banks and a good stopping place. There they built 
two great fires, and sat between them. 

"I want to roast myself till I can't stand it any 
longer," said Sam Strong. "I'd advise you fellows 
to do the same, an' in the momin' we'll hold a 
council." 

The question put to the council was very simple: 
should they go on or turn back? Sam Strong laid 
down the premises succinctly. They had come him- 
dreds of miles, and they had passed through dhasnu 
which must be a mile deep. They had located 



u 



THE EETUEN BY LAND 151 

eral good beaver streams to which they could come 
on future trips. The river would probably grow 
wilder the further they went, and The Columbus was 
not adequate for increased risks. As it was, the 
return trip by land would consume many weeks. 

All voted reluctantly to go back, and they began 
the task at once. They rowed ten or more miles 
further up the creek, stopping only when the water 
was too shallow for the boat, which they pushed 
into some dense shrubbery growing at the water's 
edge, where it was completely hidden from any 
one, a yard away. 

** We've got to leave the good old Columbus,** 
said Sam Strong. *' Maybe we'll find her jest as 
she is when we come down this way again three or 
four years from now, an' then she'll be of use." 

They rolled up the skin tarpaulin and thrust it 
into the boat's little cabin. The oars were fastened 
aboard, and making of their ammunition and 
remaining supplies four packs, they bade The 
Columbus farewell. 

'*Gopd boat I Strong boat I She's served us 
well," said Obadiah Pirtle, sententiously. 

** Yes, an' I'd like mighty well to go on a thousand 
miles further, if need be," said Sam Strong, the 
light of exploration shining in his eyes. **I'd like 
to be able to tell whether the Colorado goes into the 
earth or reaches the ocean aboVe ground. Well, it 
can't be this time." 

They now turned toward the northeast, every man 
carrying his pack, and they found the traveling over 
wild, rough ranges very slow and difficult. They 



►-,v^ 




152 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

had come at racing speed like a toboggan down an 
icy hill, bnt it was a heavy drag back, inch by inch. 
They were able, however, to examine the conntry, 
and Strong found further encouragement about 
beaver. 

''We can find 'em in here for twenty years to 
come,*' he said. 

They lived chiefly on the blacktail deer, which 
they found in abundance on the mountains, and now 
and then they killed a bear. As they advanced 
northward, Strong grew anxious about Indians. 
The country became more open, fit in many places 
for habitation, and he was sure that the tribes would 
not neglect such a region. 

Strong was right. When they had been traveling 
about two weeks they saw a great cloud of smoke 
rising behind a hill to their left. They climbed the 
hill, and from the shelter of dense pines looked 
down upon an Indian village of forty or fifty skin 
tepees. Neither Strong nor Cole could tell to what 
tribe they belonged, and they did not stay to inquire 
into the matter. 

''We'd better beat one of them masterly retreats 
Tom an' Porter are always talkin' about," he said. 
"We haven't got any river here to take us away 
from them warriors, if they should see ns." 

The Indians did not see them, and they continued 
their journey through country in which traveling 
was very slow. Often they did not make more than 
five miles a day, and it seemed to Bob that if het 
climbed one mountain ridge, he climbed a thousand^^ 

They stopped sometimes for two or three day^^ 




THE RETURN BY LAND 153 

to htint or rest, and they utilized one of these occa- 
sions to make for themselves new moccasins of 
deerskin, which they needed badly. Bob had now 
become quite skilful in all kinds of work. He could 
sew deerskin with neatness, and moreover he knew 
how to shape and fashion it. Nearly all the cloth- 
ing with which he had started from Omaha had 
disappeared, and he was arrayed in deerskin, which 
set off his tall, well-knit, active figure. His stature 
had increased to a considerable degree, and his 
strength remarkably, during his year with the 
trappers. 

Another week of steady climbing toward the 
northeast passed, and they came into a country less 
mountainous, but in the main bleak and sterile. 
Trees and grass were to be found along the rare 
little streams, but there were long stretches of coun- 
try, burnt with lava and absolutely bare. They 
found game along the streams only, and were com- 
pelled to be very careful with their resources. 

** Beaver country lies north of here,*' said Sam 
Strong one evening when they camped by the side 

of a brook, so weak that it was barely able to trickle 

over the sand, *' an' we'll strike forests, too." 
"I'm glad of it," said Bob. ''I'd like to have a 

little shade." 
It had been very hot all the day, and the glare 

of the sun off the black lava burnt into him. Now 
i^ lay against a bowlder, seeking any coolness that 
^^ evening might bring. 

**It's a country that's known to trappers to some 
®*^ent,^' said Strong. ** They've come here several 



154 



HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 



times from some of the border posts, an* Hudson 
Bay poachers have been in here, too. As onr own 
grounds are private, we don't want to meet any of 
'em, an' I'm hopin' for the best." ^ 

*'So say we all," said Obadiah Pirtle, and a little 
later Bob fell asleep through sheer exhaustion. 



CHAPTER SI 

THE COMING OF CARVEB 

They entered the next day a more desolate coun- 
try than any they had yet seen, a sea of lava without 
a trace of vegetation. As Strong remarked, they 
had to pass through the worst before they could 
get to the better. Bob glanced down at the hot, 
black slag that burned through his moccasins. 

* * This came from a volcano, somewhere, ' * he said, 
looking at the rounded peaks far away. 

*'Volcalio,'' said Bill Cole, incredulously. **IVe 
been travelin* through the mountains most all my 
life an' I ain't ever heard of any belchin' out fire 
an* smoke and brimstone.'* 

*'It isn't that," said Bob, who had not studied his 
school-books in vain, '*it never happened in your 
time, nor in your grandfather's time. That lava 
was probably thrown out a couple of million years 
ago." 

Bill Cole laughed with the just scorn of a right- 
eous man. 

''You learned that from a book, Bob," he said. 

*What happened two million years ago has never 

ippened at all for me. It's jest a part of creation." 

All that day the sun burned and blazed, but the 

ttest part of it was its reflection. The lava 
trned to shoot it back with double strength, and 
b, although he drew his cap as low down as he 

155 



156 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

could, was unable to protect his face and eyes from 
the glare. The lava not only grew hotter, but 
sharper. Despite every precaution, it cut through 
their moccasins, and their feet were bleeding. 

Bob suffered severely. The sun stole his strength, 
and his head ached. His feet, swollen and torn, 
gave him great pain. His eyes, made weak by the 
fiery glare and the dimness, magnified the heat 
waves before him, but he saw, nevertheless, far 
mountains which looked dim and cool. 

The boy would not utter a word of complaint. 
He tried to hold himself erect, and to walk with as 
firm a step as the others, but his head did ache 
horribly, and his tongue lay like a coal in his month. 
Sam Strong had been watching him with a look 
sideways, but none the less inclusive, and the fron- 
tiersman was a shrewd reader of the human heart. 
For a long time he said nothing. At last he 
remarked in a tone apparently careless : 

*'Well, I'm gettin' my second wind. It comes to 
some fellows quicker than it does to others, but that 
don't mean that it will stay the longest. Bob, sup- 
pose I carry that pack of yours a spell while I'm 
so fresh an' gay." 

Bob glanced at his chief, and Sam Strong, stal- 
wart, sunburned, the man of a thousand perils, 
actually blushed right through his brown coxmten- 
ance. The boy understood him and showed that he 
knew. 

**You said, Sam, that I was to be a full partner 
in the furs," Bob replied, *'and I'm going to be a 
full partner here on the lava, too. You're just 



i.k 



THE COMING OF CARVER 157 

about as hot and tired as I am, and your feet are as 
much cut up, too.'* 

Sam Strong looked down at his moccasins. A 
red streak ran across each. Then he smiled, and 
his smile was half kind, half grim. 

*'Bob,'* he said, ''I'm glad you gave me that 
answer. You are, as you say, a full partner in 
everything, an' I won't try to fool you. Come on 
now, an' we'll see who can walk on the hottest an' 
sharpest lava without flinchin'." 

But it was only a narrow stretch of the lava 
desert, a spit thrust out from the main body between 
the mountains, and towards the middle of the after- 
noon the green slope showed nearer. At twilight 
it seemed to Bob that he could reach out and touch 
it, and when the sun was quite gone they were there. 

They had reached the foot of the first slope, and 
in the light night it was the most beautiful moun- 
tain that Bob had ever seen. It was cool, shadowy 
and protecting, a kindly father of mountains. 
There were only dwarf pines about him, but they 
appeared splendid after the glare of the lava. His 
eyes became clear again, and his tongue no longer 
burned in his mouth. 

Just over the first slope they found a beautiful 
little clear brook, flowing down from snows far 
away somewhere above the clouds. Bob started to 
rush for it, but the hand of Sam Strong, falling 
upon his shoulder, held him back. 

"We won't drink it all up right away. Bob,'* he 
said, **just a few drops apiece, an* then we'll look 
to our feet." 



i 



158 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

They drank moderately of the water which was 
very cold, and then stripping off their moccasins, 
buried their feet iq it. Bob felt a deep sense of 
refreshment flowing from his toes to his head. He 
lifted np his feet, let the water run through hie 
toes, and then, thrusting them back again, laughed 
like a happy child. 

**I ain't as young as you, Bob, an' I ain't 
laughinV' said Obadiah Pirtle, **but I enjoy it as 
much. ' ' 

After a time they drank all the water they wanted 
and ate cold food from their packs. Then they lay 
on the ground, in their bare feet, and were happy. 
They repaired their moccasins by moonlight as best 
they could, and taking a night's sound sleep, went 
further into the mountains the next day. Coming 
to a likely valley, they agreed to separate and hunt 
for game, which they needed badly. A spring, 
bubbling up at the base of an old oak, was to be the 
point of return, and they started, all in different 
directions. 

Bob bore towards the northwest and turned np a 
little canyon, well lined with oak and ash, pine and 
cedar. The coolness of the forest and the night's 
sleep had refreshed him greatly. Frequent bathing 
of his feet, both night and morning, in the cold 
water, had taken away the soreness, and he walked 
now with a strong and elastic tread. 

It was a pleasant little canyon, two or three hun- 
dred yards wide, with frequent little pools of dear 
water, and a gentle slope to the enclosing ridges. 
Hefe one was almost sure to find game, and the 



■4-\ 



THE COMING OF CARVER 159 

boy^s heart leaped with the desire of being the first 
to return to the camp with deer or wild turkey. 

But the hunt led on. Search canyon and trees 
ever so well, he saw neither deer nor wild turkey. 
He was far from the camp now, three hours at least, 
an^ he neither saw nor heard anything. There was 
no wind, and the boughs of the trees hung motion- 
less. The boy began to grow discouraged. He did 
not lose hope that in time he would find game, but 
his pride in being first would not be gratified. 

The canyon turned suddenly almost at a right 
angle, and as Bob turned the angle, a thick clump 
of pines, he came face to face with a large man, 
dark of face and close-set of eyes. The man rushed 
out, seized Bob's shoulder in a powerful grasp, and 
began to laugh. 

**Well, if it ain't the young sprout!'' he exclaimed. 
**The boy that got away in Omaha with the others, 
when we lost the scent of the new fur country. 
What luck!" 

Bob had recognized Carver in an instant, but he 
ha3 hoped that the bully would not remember him. 
Now the hope was vain. What bad luck indeed 1 
Carver showed his white teeth, while he still held a 
firm grip upon the boy's shoulder — ^he was a man 
of immense strength. 

**It's quite sure," continued Carver, "that where 
you are the others are not far away. Now I knew 
that Sam Strong was headed for rich beaver 
streams, known to nobody else, and right there is 
where I want to go with my men. You will lead us, 
my boy. This is certainly my lucky day." 






160 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

Bob was sure that the freebooter's band was not 
far away. He could see some distance up the 
canyon, but none of them was in view. He revolved 
rapidly in his mind some plan of escape. He must 
give a warning to his comrades, no matter how. 
But that fierce grip was still on his shoulder. The 
five fingers of Carver seemed to sink like ir6n into 
his flesh. 

**Come, boy,*' said the man, ** where are your 
friends and how far from here are those beautiful 
beaver streams? Not twenty miles, I'll wager, or 
I wouldn't find you wandering up this canyon.'' 

**I will not answer either question," replied Bob 
with energy. 

**You won't, won't you?" said Carver. **Well, 
I'll see that you do. There's an old saying that a 
bird that won't sing can be made to sing. Talk, I 
say!" 

His fingers. pressed right into the boy's shoulder, 
and pain shot all through him. A sudden passion 
of rage filled every vein of Bob's body. The pas- 
sion and the pain together gave him a fierce impulse, 
backed by double his usual strength. He was held 
by the left shoulder, but doubling his right fist, he 
struck the man in the chest with great violence. 

Powerful as he was. Carver's grip was torn loose, 
and despite himself he staggered back. The boy's 
anger was still at white heat, and now he swung 
his left fist also, this time full on the man's chin. 

Carver staggered again, and fell upon his hands 
and knees. He remained there only a momenta 
With the blood dripping from his chin, but lithe and 



,A«f 



THE COMING OF CAEVER ^ 161 

strong as a panther, he sprang to his feet. His 
rifle, which had been held in his left hand, lay on 
the ground, but his right hand flew toward the pistol 
in his belt. It stopped there. 

Bob, with every nerve and sense keyed to the 
highest tension, had sprung back as Carver fell, 
and now when the freebooter rose he found himself 
looking into the muzzle of the boy*s rifle, not more 
than five feet away. 

'*I won*t tell you where my comrades are, and I 
won^t tell you where the beaver streams are,'' said 
Bob. **I'm a bird that can sing, but you can't make 
me sing. Take your hand from that pistol or I 
shoot." 

Carver was not a common man. He knew by 
Bob's eyes, full of excitement and anger, that he 
meant what he said, and he was too clever to give 
way to his own passion. His hand came away from 
the pistol butt, and exercising his great power of 
self control, he laughed lightly. 

*'It was a jest," he said. **0f course I didn't 
mean you any harm, boy. But we are beaver 
trappers, just like your party, and we ought to join 
you. Two are stronger than one. I wanted you to 
lead us to Strong and the others." 

Bob looked down the sights of his rifle into the 
swarthy face and the close-set, cunning eyes. As 
the man smiled he looked at the long, white teeth 
which seemed to him to be sharpened as if they had 
been pointed with a file, and he was not deceived for 
an instant. The face of Carver made upon his mind 
an impression exactly like that of a mountain wolf. 

11 



162 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

** A man's face often lies, and you can see it when 
it lies,'' he said. *^ Yours is lying now. Turn 
square around at once and walk, or I shoot!" 

Carver's face as he heard the words was ugly to 
see. All his evil passions, to be dragooned thus by 
a boy, flared forth upon it, but he turned without 
delay and began to walk away in the other direction. 
He was hoping that some of his followers would 
appear. His camp was not more than a couple of 
miles up the canyon, and one of them might come 
within sight at any moment. Barely had his heart 
been torn by sq fierce an anger. It was not endur- 
able to be marched away in this fashion' at the gun*s 
muzzle. Black rage swelled the veins of his face. 
His hand stole again toward the pistol butt, but 
stopped halfway because he knew the boy with the 
rifle was watching. 

A figure approached among the trees a hundred 
yards away. Carver, with savage joy, recognized 
it as that of one of his followers. The man saw his 
leader walking forward in seeming gravity and with 
measured step, and then he saw the figure now 
thirty yards behind him, covering him with leveled 
rifle. He was acute enough to know that the one 
with the rifle was a stranger and an enemy. He 
sprang forward, threw his weapon to his shoulder 
and fired. 

Bob sent his own bullet at almost the same 
moment, but not at Carver. He could not fire into 
a man's back. He aimed instead at the man who 
had aimed at him. Neither bullet struck its target 
— the pulling of the trigger was too hasty — and 



t 
'.■* 




J 



THE COMING OF CARVER 165 

these two friends of his looked. He had never 
noticed before their great height and width, nor 
their fierce and terrible bearing. They were giants, 
well come to his rescue. 

**It's Carver and his men I'' he shouted, rushing 
toward them. *'They want to raid our camp, and 
they tried to kill me.*' 

Up flew the rifle of Sam Strong and a bullet struck 
one of the pursuing men in the shoulder. Carver 
and the three with him instantly fell back. It was 
one thing to pursue a single boy, but it was quite 
another to pursue him when two formidable fron- 
tiersmen stood by his side, ready to repel attack. 

The two parties were now about five hundred 
yards apart, and stood for a moment or two looking 
at each other. Then Carver put a whistle to his 
lips and blew a long, shrill note. 

**He's callin' to the rest of his people, '* said Sam 
Strong. **Well, we'll caU to ours, an* hopin* for 
the best, I think he'll come, as there ain't but one 
of him.'* 

He put his fingers to his lips and blew a note 
almost as loud as that of Carver's whistle. In 
three minutes they heard a rapid tread in the bush, 
and soon the lank figure of Obadiah Pirtle hove into 
view. His swift glance comprehended everything. 

** Sorry I'm the last to get here," he said. **But 
I see that the real work ain't yet actually begun." 

**No," said Strong, **nothin' much has been done 
yet, 'cept by Bob, here, though he ain't had time to 
tell me what that is, but I think we'll be busy soon. 
"We'll drop back among the rocks." 



166 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

The canyon was extremely rocky at that point and 
the four running in among the rocks, dropped down 
under shelter. Bob was still drawing long breaths, 
but they were growing shorter, and his lungs were 
refilling with fresh air. As he lay behind a high 
crag he briefly told the story of his encounter. 

**They think that our beaver skins are stored 
close by,'^ said Strong. **It's natural that they 
should think so, seein^ that we're here. They 
expect to wipe out all but one or two of us, an' then 
make them that are left tell about the furs. Cur 'us 
things, Bob, happen in these mountams, a thousand 
miles from nowhere, but hopin' for the best, I don't 
think they'll wipe us out." 

*' They 're gatherin' in strong force," said Bill 
Cole. **See, the rest of his crowd have come." 

It was evident that Cole was right, and that the 
shots had drawn all of Carver's force. More than 
twenty men were in the group that was now assem- 
bled about a thousand yards away, and in the dear, 
brilliant sunlight of the Western mountains Bob saw 
them very distinctly, all strong, sun-browned men, 
several of them halfbreeds, and two obviously 
Indians, but of what tribe Bob could not tell. 

Carver stood a little in front of the others, and 
Bob could surmise his feelings. He had seen 
enough of him to know very well that he was, at 
bottom, a man of ferocious temper, and he must be 
raging over his temporary defeat by a boy. 

** They '11 spread out directly in a half circle," 
said Sam Strong, **expectin' to get at us that way, 
but I don't think they'll be able to do it." 



<4 



THE COMING OF CARVEE 167 

Sam was a good prophet, as the freebooters, after 
a short conference, began to trail off, some to the 
right and some to the left, excepting Carver and 
four or five, who remained where they were. 

''The party that turned off to the left,'' said 
Strong, ''will climb up on the mountain side an' try 
to get our range, but as you remember. Bob, when 
we were on the Colorado, it's hard to shoot down at 
a man an' hit him." 

Strong spoke quietly, but with a stem certainty 
in his tone that boded ill for the skirmishers on the 
slope. Both the leader and Bill Cole were watching 
the mountainside attentively. The intense burning 
light threw every rock, tree and shrub into brilliant 
relief. It seemed to Bob that he could see the con- 
volutions in bark, on trunks a thousand yards away. 
His heart was beating rather fast, but he had become 
inured to danger, and he did not tremble. He lay 
close behind his rock, and was content to wait, hav- 
ing an abiding faith in his leader. 

Something moved on the mountainside and a rifle 
flashed. The bullet struck only the unoffending 
earth, but another bullet, fired in return at the flash, 
sped true, and one wilderness outlaw lay down for- 
ever in the bush. Sam Strong's face was stem and 
hard as he thrust another cartridge into his rifle. 

•*Good shot, Sam," said Bill Cole. 

The leader nodded. 

"It'll hold 'em a while," said Obadiah Pirtle. 

Everything relapsed into quiet, and the rays of 
the sun came down hotter than ever. Bob saw 
Carver and the men who had remained with him lie 



168 HOESEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

down on the grass, as if they would take their ease 
just out of rifle-shot, and he began to grow impa- 
tient. Waiting was getting upon his nerves. He 
wanted them to attack, if they were to do so, and 
have done with it. He moved a little from sheer 
restlessness. 

** Careful, Bob,'* said Strong, **you're showin' 
yourself to them that are on the other side of the 
canyon. ' ' 

Bob hastily drew back within the shelter of the 
rock, and not a moment too soon. A bullet, fired 
from the opposite side of the canyon, knocked up 
the earth where his knee had been. Both Cole and 
Pirtle fired in reply, but they did not hit their man. 
Nevertheless, he and his comrades were compelled 
to retreat swiftly. 

**They won't try to get at us in that way again," 
said Sam Strong. **Too dangerous.'' 

Strong was right again, and no other visible 
movement occurred for a long time. Then it came 
in a manner that they least expected. Carver 
walked deliberately down the canyon toward them, 
waving an old white handkerchief on the muzzle of 
his rifle. Strong expressed his frank astonishmeni 

**Now, I'd like to know what's at work in his 
brain," he exclaimed. **Comin' with a white flag. 
That means that he wants to talk to us. I'm hopin' 
for the best, but I hardly hope that he means to 
apologize. Anyhow, we'll let him say his say.'* 

Strong came from cover and sat down on a rock 
in a comfortable position. Carver walked on boldly. 
Bob could not keep from admiring his easy bearisff 



THE COMING OF GARVEE 169 

and air of confidence. It was quite evident that 
Carver was a man of qnality, although the quality 
might be wicked. He came within about thirty 
paces, dropped his rifle stock to the ground, and 
leaned gracefully on the muzzle, old handkerchief 
and all. 

**HeIlo, Strong,^' he said in quite a genial tone. 
**IVe got a few things to say.'* 

**YouVe got all the time there is to say 'em in,** 
said Strong drily, *'an* we're listenin*, so go 
ahead.*' 

** You're fur hunters and so are we," said Carver. 
**Good fur grounds and beaver streams ain't any 
too plenty now, as you know. But you and the 
fellows with you have made a big find somewhere in 
these parts. There ain't a doubt about it, and we 
want to be in on it. We're just bound to be in on 
it. Now, I lay it to you, fair and square. You 
take us in as partners, and we'll all divide even. 
You've just laid out one of my men, but I don't 
mind that. There'll be fewer to share. You need 
a strong party. Indians are troublesome, and are 
going to be more so. Few as you are you could 
never get back across the plains with your furs, 
even if you were so lucky as to reach the plains." 

He paused as if he wished his words to sink in, 
but the face of the leader did not change a particle. 

** That's our affair," said Sam tersely. ** What's 
the other side!" 

"The other won't be so pleasin' to you. It says 
that if you don't accept the first, we'll come an' 
take your furs. We're strong enough to do it, an' 



I 

i 



170 



HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 



I don't know of any law in these parts that will 
keep us from it." 

*'No, there ain't no law," said Sam, **'cept that 
of our rifles, an' I want to say that I've listened to 
you, Juan Carver. Now, havin' considered the 
question for all of half a second, an' speakin' for 
my partners, whose feelin's I know without askin', 
I've got to say that we choose rifles, hoping at the 
same time, Juan Carver, that it won't hurt your 
f eelin 's. " 

Strong's tone was too decisive to admit of doubti 
and Carver accepted it in a jaunty manner. 

**A man always has his choice," he said, "an* 
you've made yours, though it's a bad one." 

'*I'm hopin' for the best," said Sam Strong. 



1 1 . 



CHAPTER Xn 

THE GREAT LAUGH 

Carver walked back toward his men in the same 
graceful, careless manner. When he reached them 
he talked a moment with one, probably a lieutenant, 
and then disappeared further up the canyon, but 
the rest remained there on guard. Sam Strong 
removed himself from the rock where he had sat 
motionless throughout the negotiations, and laughed 
drily when he lay down upon the ground. 

** Carver must have thought we were fools, when 
he made an offer like that,'' he said. **He knew 
that if we accepted it, we'd keep it an' that he 
wouldn't." 

**What are we going to do now!" asked Bob. 

* * It depends a good deal on what they do. If the 
night comes on thick an' black we can slip away. 
Our packs are not more than two miles from here 
down the canyon. We can pick them up an' then 
light out for our real camp, where Louis and the 
two generals are." 

Now came a long period of waiting and suspense 
that was very trying to Bob. Carver returned to 
the group in the canyon, but he made no movement, 
sitting down on the ground, apparently idling the 
tune away. After two or three hours a little skir- 
mishing was done, but it was at long range. The 
freebooters fired several shots, but they did not 

171 



172 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

strike anywhere near, and Obadiah Pirtle fired one 
in return, which also found no target except the 
round earth. Then they relapsed into silence, and 
after a while Bob saw that the sun was setting. 
The dark haze spread slowly at first, and then so 
fast that the eastern mountains were gone, and the 
night was near. The four crept more closely 
together and held a council in whispers. 

**It ain^t our business to be fightin^ a gang like 
that out there, ^^ said Sam Strong. **What we want 
to do is to be busy tra^pin' beaver. If we can slip 
away they'll spend all of a year roamin' ^roun* 
through these parts lookin' for us an' our furs, 
while we're far away gettin' more." 

They decided not to make the attempt until after 
midnight. Carver and his men would naturally 
expect it earlier, and after long and disappointed 
waiting their vigilance would be relaxed. 

**An' if they undertake to move on us we'll be 
sure to hear 'em, even if we don't see 'em," said 
Sam Strong, confidently. 

Bill Cole and Pirtle seemed to agree with him, as 
they stretched themselves at ease on the ground, 
although Bob observed that each kept an ear to the 
earth. He had so much confidence in them that he fell 
asleep. He was awakened by a rifle-shot. But when 
he sat up with sleep still heavy upon him, Sam Strong 
told him that the shot had been merely a warning. 

**They undertook to creep near," he said, **an' I 
fired at the sound. I didn't hit anything, but it was 
enough to make 'em go back, which was all we 
wanted." 



THE GREAT LAUGH 178 

Bob fell asleep a second time, and when he was 
awakened again it was the hand of Sam Strong on 
Ms shoulder that did it. 

'*We're ready to go, boy,** he said, **an* it's 
makin' no noise that will do it if we do it. I'm 
goin' to lead, you come right after me, Obe follows 
you, an' Bill brings up the rear. It would certainly 
be a great joke on 'em if we slipped right away, 
leavin' 'em here holdin' the basket an' knowin' no 
different. If we all hope for the best together 
maybe we can bring off the joke." 

**I'm hoping with you," whispered Bob. 

**I'm hopin', too," whispered Obadiah Pirtle. 

**Me, too," came the whisper of Bill Cole. 

Without further words they slipped away along 
the mountainside, every one stepping so lightly 
that no sound arose as they passed. It was dark 
and the bush was thick, but Bob's pride was once 
more to the fore. If any one stumbled, or broke a 
stick under his foot, or made the bushes rustle, he 
was resolved that it should not be he who stumbled 
or broke a stick under his foot or made the bushes 
mstle. He was clever enough now to see how it 
could be done. He was careful to step exactly in 
the tracks of Sam Strong, who was only a yard 
ahead of him, and as he did not look back he did not 
know that Obadiah Pirtle and Bill Cole followed 
this example, not from resolution, but from long 
training that had become habit and intuition. 

When they had gone a hundred yards or so Sam 
Strong suddenly stopped. It was long a matter of 
piide with the boy that he did not run into the 



174 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

leader, but stopped noiselessly and in time, with a 
clear foot of space between them. The two behind 
him stopped automatically. Sam Strong turned 
slowly and looked in turn at Bob, Obadiah and BilL 
The moonlight, faint though it was, was suflficient 
at that short range to disclose his face. Sam 
Strong, frontiersman, grim veteran of a thousand 
dangers, was laughing. No sound came from his 
lips, but he was laughing with every feature. The 
corners of his mouth turned up, his eyes were all 
mirth, and even the tip of his nose seemed to take 
a jocund tilt. 

**The joke is comin' off,'^ he said in the softest 
of whispers. **The greatest joke these mountains 
have ever known is about to be played. I felt it in 
all my bones that it was goin' to happen when we 
hoped together for the best. Eaise up about four 
inches an' look down there to the righf 

They rose to the ordered height and gazed over 
the tops of some bushes into a little ravine that evi- 
dently led into the canyon. Bob's pulses jumped 
when he saw half a score of men, Carver at their 
head and rifles in their hands, stealing forward. 

** They 're ambushin' the place where we ain%'* 
said Strong in the same soft whisper, **an' as many 
more, comin' from other points, are doin' the same. 
Well, luck to you, boys. You'll get to that spot 
without bein' shot. But by the great horn spooni 
the joke is on you all the same.'* 

His face contracted again in a great spasm of 
silent laughter, and the infection passed down the 
line. The comers of Bob's mouth crinMed vp. 



THE GREAT LAUGH 175 

Obadiah Pirtle bent a little further forward and 
rubbed one hand appreciatively across his stomach, 
Bill Cole's eyes became like those of a child seeing 
his first clown at a circus. 

Thus they stood motionless, while the attacking 
party filed by in the little canyon below them. Sam 
Strong cast a glance at the last man as he disap- 
peared, and when the shadow was gone in the dark- 
ness, the leader dropped a heavy, sinewy hand over 
his own mouth. It was necessary. A great laugh 
struggling in his throat longed for vocal expression, 
and this was the only way in which he could keep it 
down. Not until he felt that he had acquired rea- 
sonable control did he take the hand away, and then 
he used it for making a signal to his comrades that 
they should move on. 

Strong led a little higher up the slope of the 
mountain, crept another fifty yards, and the second 
time gave the signal to stop. Then he pointed 
through the bushes, and they saw another group of 
freebooters stealing upon the place that they had 
left. It was evident that the band of Carver were 
approaching it as the spokes of a wheel meet at 
the hub. 

**The joke grows,*' whispered Strong. **By the 
great horn spoon, it is cert'nly the fanciest one that 
ever happened!'* 

The second detachment disappeared, stealing 
down upon the defenseless rocks, and when they 
were well out of sight the four sped swiftly along 
the mountain side. When they were a mile away 
they turned, descended into the canyon, passed by 






176 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

their camp, recovered their packs, and then leaving 
the canyon, entered the mountains again. 

Now not a word was said. The marching was 
not so bad, as it was a fairly gentle slope, and their 
eyes had grown used to the darkness. Sam Strong 
led silently on one hour, two hours, three hours, 
until he came to a little hollow on the slope, where 
he stopped abruptly. The night had now lightened 
considerably, a good moon riding low in the heavens, 
and all the features of every face were visible to 
one another. 

**Here we bust!^* said Sam Strong. 

'^Let her rip!'' said Bill Cole. 

Sam Strong threw back his head, opened his 
mouth and shot forth a gigantic laugh, not a laugh 
of recent birth, a raw fledgling of a laugh, with only 
ordinary body and substance, but a laugh that had 
started four hours before, a laugh that had been 
nourished and vitalized every minute of that time, 
a laugh that was mighty, uncontrollable, that came 
rolling forth in wave after wave, every one higher 
than its predecessor. 

Bill Cole and Obadiah laughed, too, and in zest 
and volume and true spontaneity their laughs were 
but little inferior to that of the leader. Then the 
three laughs united, harmonious, and making one 
note, swept along the mountainside and came back 
in a musical echo. Tears gathered in the eyes of 
the men, but they were happy tears. The three 
bent forward, but it was not with the weight of 
years, it was with the weight of mirth. 

Bob laughed, too. He was compelled to do 80^ 



n 



■ -ijisd 



THE GREAT LAUGH 177 

but his was rather an imdemote, a minor strain, 
as it were, in the grand diapason, and it was 
mflneneed somewhat by the laugh of the. others, 
while theirs was strictly original, having its cause 
in the scenes that they had witnessed four hours 
before. 

The grand united laugh swelled to the zenith and 
then began to sink. Its waves rolled up less vio- 
lently, the echoes became softer, and then died away. 
Then all ceased, as if by preconcerted action, and 
looked at one another. 

*'By the great horn spoon, it was cert'nly worth 
it!'' said Sam Strong. '*To think of Juan Carver 
and his men ambushin' some cold rocks, an' we a 
dozen miles away. I couldn't hold that laugh in 
another minute." 

*^Nor me," said Bill Cole. 

'*Nor me," said Obadiah Pirtle. 

Bob gazed at his comrades in some curiosity. 
They were certainly men of the wilderness, and 
their jokes were those of the wilderness. But he 
said nothing. He was too happy to be asking 
questions. 

^*'In case some wanderin' Indian, coyote or some- 
thin' else that don't like us heard our laughin' we'll 
move on a couple of miles an' then rest," said Sam 
Strong. 

They walked the appointed distance, and found 
a pleasant place in a clump of pines where they 
slept, the four by turns taking the watch until 
noon. Then they decided to pursue the journey 

12 



178 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

to their mountain home, as if nothing had happened. 

** Carver hasn't the least notion which way we've 
gone," said Strong, "an' he can't trail us over 
mountains. So we'll march an' wish 'em joy with 
their hunt down here." 

They now passed days of marching and exertion, 
but they were pleasant to Bob. There was much 
climbing over rocks and mountain ridges, and often 
it was mercilessly hot, but they were rarely far from 
wood and water, and they found abundant game. 
They felt so safe, too, that several times they turned 
from their line of march to look for beaver streams. 
They were successful in locating two, and Sam 
Strong marked them carefully on the map of tanned 
deerskin that he carried inside his hunting shirt. 

* * May need 'em some day, ' ' he said, tersely. 

The journey still led peacefully onward, and to 
Bob it was like a long ramble, the most interesting 
trip that any one had ever undertaken. He had 
shot the rapids of the Colorado between mighty 
cliffs, more than a mile high — ^not knowing that 
others yet higher were below — and now he was 
returning through magnificent mountains, some of 
which no white man perhaps had ever seen before. 

The boy's imagination was greatly stirred. 
Besides being a fur-hunter and man of arms, he was 
an explorer, too. He tried to surmise the height 
of the peaks, and he named the highest of them all 
Mt. Strong. A huge hog-back he called Cole Bidge, 
and the title Pirtle Crest was bestowed upon a sin- 
gularly slender, but tall peak. 

"It's good of you, Bob, an' mighty flattering" 



, 1 

f" 



THE GREAT LAUGH 179 

said Sam Strong, **but them names won^t stick. 
By an' by some feller from the East, wearin' big 
glasses an* carryin* measnrin' instruments, will see 
onr mountains, go back to the east, announce that 
he has discovered *em, an' give 'em new names. 
Mt. Strong, Cole Eidge an' Pirtle Crest will fade 
right away like snow under the sun." 

**That may be, but they will have been named 
right for a little while, at least," said Bob, loyally. 

They crossed several rivers, mostly shallow and 
always cold, and on a beautiful golden day in late 
summer they reached their own creek and went up 
the little valley. It seemed to Bob that they had 
been away for ages, and he wondered if they would 
find the three comrades whom they had left behind 
alive and well. Some such thought was in the 
minds of the others, but they did not disclose it. 
Yet as they went up the valley they looked about 
very anxiously, lest they should see signs of a 
strange and hostile presence. 

Everything was as they had left it, and as it 
should be. There was no smoke of an enemy on 
the horizon, no trail of a numerous band ran through 
the woods, there was no place where the camp of a 
war party had been. The very wind told of seclu- 
sion and peace, and at last they approached the 
good cabin that they had built the year before. 
The roof first came into the view of their knowing 
eyes, and then glimpses of the rough walls. 

They saw no human being, but as they came 
nearer a most grateful odor assailed their nostrils. 

"I've been hopin' for the best, an' it cert'nly has 



180 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

come to pass/' said Sam Strong. ** That's the 
smell of a deer steak, bein' cooked by Louis Perolet. 
I'll bet, too, that the * generals' are in there with him, 
an' as the window is wide open, we'll slip up to it 
an' see what they are doin' before we have our- 
selves announced at the front door by the butler." 

They trod very softly, and gaining the window, 
listened. 

**Now, as I was tellin' to you, Louis, seein' that 
you're a Frenchman an' ain't informed, at the 
Battle of the Wilderness old Grant came ham- 
merin' down with 'bout ten hundred thousand men, 
expectin' to smash us to flinders, blow us away, eat 
us up alive, an' do a lot of other things sudden an' 
unexpected, but General Bob Lee was there, a splen- 
did, big man, ridin' at the front of our army on a 
gray horse, an' when he saw old Grant an' his 
million comin' he looked 'round at his army, Q^n'ral 
Bob Lee did, an' he says in a loud voice: *Is Porter 
Evans here?' an' some one answers also in a loud 
voice: *He is.' Then says Gen'ral Bob Lee: 'For- 
ward march; let the battle begin', an' then we gave 
'em the most awful lickin' that was ever give to one 
army by another army." 

** Don't you believe him, Louis. That Porter 
Evans ain't fit to write history. His fancy is so 
bright an' hot it burns facts right up. At the Battle 
of the Wilderness we didn't let more than ten thou- 
sand rebels get away. I remember takin' one gen- 
eral with my own hands, an' him all covered with 
gold lace, besides so many colonels an' captains 
that I forgot to count 'em." 



THE GREAT LAUGH 181 

^^Mon DieUj how you two fellows brag, you 
Yankee an' you rebel 1 What was your Grant, and 
what was your Lee to the great Napoleon? With 
his valiant Frenchmen, grands soldatSy he conquered 
all Europe, every inch of it. He had kings and 
queens to do — ^what you call it? — eat breakfast out 
of his hand every morning. He frowns in Paris, 
an' the next minute the Czar in St. Petersburg an' 
the King in London shake all over with fear. He 
smiles, an' the next minute there is not a cloud in 
all Europe, not one so leetle as my hand. He is 
sitting at his grand council with his councilors an' 
secretaries an' one dozen kings an' queens sharp- 
enin' the pens an' pencils for him, when a boy rush 
in with a telegram. He open it an' read an' say: 
* Excuse me for two days, I have to go out an' whip 
the Emperor of Austria'." 

**But, Louis, there was no telegraph in those 
days. ' ' 

**What, you think a poor, leetle man like you can 
get a telegram an' the great Napoleon not get one? 
You do not under stan', Meester Tom Harris, that 
the great Napoleon was the greatest of all the great 
men the world has ever known." 

"An' all three of you can lay down your arms 
an' surrender right here. Bless your ugly faces!" 
called out Sam Strong, suddenly thrusting his head 
in at the open window. 

The three uttered cries of surprise, then of joy, 
and presently there was a mighty shaking of hands. 



CHAPTER Xm 
THE DEPARTURE 

**I*in thinkin* that we arrived just in time,'* said 
Sam Strong, after the ferment had been stilled 
somewhat. * * Tears to me that the great Napoleon 
was jest about to wipe out all the rest of the world 
when we peeked in at the window/' 

**We*d have come back at him/' said Porter 
Evans. ** While me an' Tom here can't agree about 
the Civil War, Tom bein' so obstinate that he won't 
ever see the truth, we'd have united to down him. 
You did come just in time, just in time to save 
Frenchy . ' ' 

Louis Perolet grinned. It was no ordinary grin. 
He had an expansive face, admirably adapted to 
grinning, large, white, even teeth, a wide mouth that 
stretched like rubber, and wonderful shining eyes. 
Now that expressive countenance was taxed to the 
utmost to show his joy. All his friends had come 
back sound and well, and the heart of Louis Perolet 
danced within him. 

**Ah!" he exclaimed, **I am so glad to see you I 
go cook you more steak! I go cook you whole 
deer." 

**Well," laughed Sam Strong, "we're just about 
hungry enough to eat one." 

While Perolet prepared a grand banquet, they 
told of their adventures, and many long, deep 

189 




THE DEPARTURE 183 

breaths were drawn by the hearers as the narrative 
proceeded. Louis looked up from his fire in amaze- 
ment when they told of rushing down the Colorado 
between cliffs of dizzy height. 

**A river with banks a hundred miles high! 
What a wonder!'' he exclaimed. **An' the great 
Napoleon never saw it.'' 

Sam Strong laughed in unctuous delight. 

**No," he said, **that is one of the things the 
great Napoleon missed. The banks were some- 
thin' stu-pen-je-ous, Louis, but I reckon they weren't 
all of a hundred miles high." 

The three who had stayed at home made angry 
gestures when they heard of Carver and his 
attempts, but they laughed also when Sam Strong 
told how the four had stolen away. 

**That was cert'nly a good trick, Sam," said Tom 
Harris. **I can hear Carver swearin' now, when, 
he an' his gang bore down on that hidin' place of 
yours, an' it as empty as a last year's bird nest." 

Not much had happened in the canyon during 
their absence; as it was the summer season the 
men did no trapping, but they took an occasional 
bearskin. They had drawn little from their stores,! 
living almost wholly upon game, and the horses had 
grazed on the meadows. There could be no doubt, 
however, that the beaver were still plentiful, and 
another great season of fur-taking was assured. 
The party, now reunited, would pass the remainder 
of the warm weather waiting for it. 

Bob had enjoyed the great adventure, the trip 
down the sunken river, and the return through the 






184 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

high mountains, but he was glad to be back again 
in their pleasant valley, down the center of which 
ran the pleasant creek, with the pleasant meadows 
and woods on either shore. He renewed his 
acquaintance among the horses. Not one of them 
had died. All were as fat as butter, and Porter 
Evans and Tom Harris listened with deep content 
to his words of admiration. 

**Yes,'' said Porter, **weVe took good care of 
them. I'm a handy man among horses, an' by hard 
work an' stayin' reg'lar on the job, I've managed 
to teach Tom a little about 'em, too." 

Tom Harris laughed scornfully. 

"Port," he said, "you didn't know the difference 
between a horse an' an elephant till I showed you." 

Not much of the summer was left, but they spent 
the remainder of it enlarging their cabin with 
another room, which they intended to devote wholly 
to the storing of furs. The completion of the task 
and the result gave them all great satisfaction. 

"That's a fine, big house," said Obadiah Pirtle. 
"I ain't seen any other like it in these parts." 

"Ah, eet ees the Versailles of the mountains," 
exclaimed Louis Perolet, triumphantly. 

"Versy-yl what's that, Frenchy?" asked Bill 
Cole. 

* * Eet ees a grand palace, built a long time ago by 
Louis Quatorze, a great Frenchman, though not so 
great as the great Napoleon." 

"We would say Versailles in this country, just as 
if that last syllable were spelled s-a-1-e-s," said Bob, 
"and we might as well name it Versailles, pro- 



•^ 



THE DEPARTURE 185 

nouncing it that way. Would you feel insulted, 
Louis, if we did sof 

* * Not at all ! not at all ! ' * replied Perolet, proudly. 
**Eet ees the preevelege of other nations to name 
their attempts after the grand achievements of 
France. ' ' 

So it became Versailles with the pronunciation of 
the last syllable as if it were spelled s-a-1-e-s, and 
now the second autumn was at hand. Again the 
forest reddened on the slopes ; again a crisp sparkle 
came into the translucent air, and in the evening it 
was pleasant to hover somewhere near the glow of 
a fire. Now the trapping was resumed with great 
vigor and energy. They ranged further and further 
in pursuit of the beaver. 

Heavy snows came later, and the winter was not 
so open as the preceding one had been, but they 
made snow-shoes for themselves, and still trapped 
with unfailing success. In such manner the cold 
months passed, filled with work, not untinged with 
danger because the mountain wolves were often 
numerous and always fierce, and when on long hunts 
the probability of snowslides was always present. 
But success, continued success, infused everything 
with a rosy tint, and the time seemed short to them 
all when spring came. 

The snows broke up with a mighty pouring of 
water down the slopes. Their pleasant, peaceful 
creek became a raging torrent, and it was many 
days before it subsided into its old channel. Then 
the snow being left only on the crests and upper 
ridges, an important question was laid before the 



186 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

Conncil of Seven, held in their Palace of Versailles 
in the spring of 1868. 

The discovery of fine beaver streams, far down 
the Colorado, had turned in the minds of all the 
men throughout the winter. Some thought it might 
be better to cache the furs they now had in stock, 
go down to the new region, trap for another year, 
and then return to civilization, carrying at once the 
product of both territories. Others thought it 
might be the safer plan to go at once to the market 
with what they had, and then return direct to the 
new streams. Sam Strong inclined to the latter 
view, but he wished the whole party to be in 
agreement. 

The session of the Council of Seven in their 
Palace of Versailles was long and arduous. Many 
astute arguments were produced on either side. 
The merits of the immediate return were shown, 
and so were those of the suggestion to go down the 
Colorado for another year. Shrewd trapping intel- 
lects were on either side, and so well did they debate 
that Sam Strong, President of the Council of Seven 
in their Palace of Versailles felt that the scales did 
not incline either way. With such a condition 
facing him he felt that he could not give any 
decision. 

*'We'll just wait a little while,** he said. << Any- 
way it's too early to start. But we'll bale our furs, 
ready for the cache or the pony's back, whenever 
we do decide." 

The work of packing took some time, and it was 
varied with an occasional hunt. One, by Bob and 






THE DEPARTURE 187 

• 

Louis Ferolet, took them far down the creek to its 
mouth at the river. 

It was the warmest day that they had yet felt, 
with a pleasant southwestern wind and a sheer blue 
sky. The trees along the slopes and in the valley 
were bursting into green, and as they went along 
and the springtide rose high in their veins, Bob 
caroled lustily an old ditty that he had learned 
from Sam Strong: 

**Eailroad*s too diggin* 
Gamblings too low, 
If I go to stealin* 
To Frankfort I must go.'' 

The mountain ridges gave back the fresh, young 
voice in pleasant echoes, and Louis Perolet looked 
approvingly at his young companion. 

**Eet ees good to hear you sing, Meester Bob,'* 
he said, **you do not have the wonderful voice, you 
would not make your fortune at the opera in Paris, 
but you have youth an' you have happiness, an* 
when I hear you sing so I have youth an' I have 
happiness, too. Now, Meester Bob, I hear Meester 
Sam Strong sing that song before. What does he 
mean by *to Frankfort I must go'?" 

**Sam is from Kentucky, Louis, and the peniten- 
tiary is at Frankfort, the capital of the state. 
There's a lot of deep philosophy in that song. He 
can't work on a railroad, it's too hard; gambling is 
not respectable ; if he steals, off to prison with him, 
so he comes out here and turns trapper." 

** Meester Sam Strong one smart man, fit to be a 
soldier of the great Napoleon." 



188 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

[Bob threw back his head and laughed joyously, 
and Louis Perolet, because he too was joyous, also 
threw back his head and laughed. 

They had not yet reached the river, while this 
talk was going on, but in fifteen minutes more they 
were in the thick woods, from which they could 
look down upon the larger stream, and the French- 
man, uttering a sharp little cry, put his hand upon 
the boy's shoulder. 

''Look, Meester Bob,** he said. ''Look down the 
river ! ' ' 

Bob looked, and, far down the stream, he saw 
four moving dots that he knew to be boats. As he 
looked they grew larger. Drops of water, glisten- 
ing like silver in the brilliant sunshine, fell from 
moving oars, swung by strong arms. Figures grew 
into outline, and he saw that each boat contained 
eight or nine men. Nearer they came, and the boy 
saw that while some of the faces were red most of 
them were white. One of the figures in the boat 
he recognized by the set of the head and the swing 
of the shoulders. It was no less a personage than 
Juan Carver. 

Louis Perolet felt the boy's shoulder quiver under 
his grasp. 

"Eet ees the wicked Juan Carver, ees eet notf 
he asked. 

"Yes, it is he,'' replied Bob. "I'd know hiTn a 
mile away. He has come with the band to take our 
furs." 

"Eet ees so," said Louis Perolet, "but remember, 
Meester Bob that he has not yet found us. The' 



M 



THE DEPARTURE 189 

mouth of our creek is narrow. Eet ees hid also by 
bushes an' reeds, an' tall grass. They do not know 
that eet ees here an' they may pass. We will wait 
an' see." 

Kneeling down in a thicket, where they could not 
possibly be seen from the river, the two watched, 
with beating hearts. If they saw the mouth of the 
creek and turned into it, as was possible, because 
along such strieams the beaver was found, there 
was nothing for them to do but hurry to the cabin, 
give the alarm and arrange for the defense. But 
if they passed on — then time would be left for many 
things. 

It is not often that every sweep of an oar is 
watched so eagerly, but Bob believed afterward 
that he saw every blade as it flashed. He could 
now see Carver distinctly. The man sat upright in 
the prow, a cone-shaped, broad-brimmed Mexican 
hat crowning his head. But he seemed to be look- 
ing straight up the stream, and the other three 
boats, with their hard-faced crews, followed straight 
behind him. 

Bob drew an imaginary line, extending from the 
mouth of the, creek to the other shore, and he 
measured the distance yet left between it and the 
leading boat. Allowing for the perspective of dis- 
tance it was more than a hundred yards and alas I 
Carver could not but see ! 

Yet they went straight on up the stream, thirty 
yards more, forty, fifty, sixty, and then the boy's 
heart went down like a plummet in a pool. The 
leading boat checked its speed, and Bob was sure 



190 HOESEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

that it was going to turn, but one of the oarsmen 
had merely caught a crab. In an instant the full 
speed of the boat was resumed, and the others 
still came behind it in a straight line. Bob saw 
Carver turn his head, but he knew that he was 
rebuking the careless oarsman and was not drawn 
by the hidden mouth of the creek — at least not yet. 

The sunlight seemed to grow more intense and 
brilliant. The bubbles that fell from the blades of 
the oars were now silver, now gold as the light fell 
upon them. Not twenty yards separated the boat 
of Carver from the imaginary line that Bob had 
drawn across the river. Now it was only ten, then 
the boat was upon it and passed on, the others still 
following in a straight line behind it. 

A great sigh of relief burst from Bob, and Louis 
did not notice it because a sigh of about the same 
size burst from him also. The boats which had 
steadily been growing larger so long were now 
steadily becoming smaller at exactly the same pace^ 
and to both Bob and Louis it was a beautiful sight 
to see — the gradual diminution of those boats. 

**They didn't dream that we were here, that the 
beaver were here or that the creek was here,'* said 
Louis, **but that eesn't any sign that they won't 
come back to-morrow or a week from now. They 
are hunting all through this region an' we can't 
remain hidden. Een a great crisis the great Napo- 
leon always did the best thing that was to be done, 
an' eemitating him we, too, will do the best thing 
that is to be done. We will rush back home an* 
warn Meester Sam an' the others." 



THE DEPARTURE 191 

They covered the long distance to their Palace 
of Versailles quicker than ever before, and found 
Sam Strong sitting before the door, scraping some 
fresh skins. The leader looked up when he heard 
their hurried footsteps, and a single swift glance 
was sufficient to tell him that they had something 
important to say. But he went calmly on, scraping 
the inside of a skin. 

*' We've seen Carver,'' said Bob, panting. 

Sam Strong's eyes flashed, but he did not stop his 
knife. 

** Where!" he asked, casually. 

*'0n the river; he had a large party in boats, 
thirty at least. We were near the mouth of the 
creek, and we saw them coming up the stream." 

**Are they in our creek now!" 

"No, they did not see it. They passed on." 

Sam Strong shut up his clasp knife, thrust it into 
his pocket, and sat up quickly. 

** They '11 come back some time or other," he said, 
**an' if we stay here long enough they'll find us. 
Our question is settled. We've got to leave at once 
for the plains, and our market. We can get ready' 
and start to-night." 

He put two fingers on his lips and emitted a shrill 
whistle. In a few minutes Bill Cole and Obadiah 
Pirtle came down through the woods, and presently 
Tom Harris and Porter Evans also approached, 
Sam Strong laid the case before them, and the decis- 
ion was unanimous. They would go eastward, and 
their going would be immediate. ' 

The horses were led from their corral or gathered 



192 H0RS3EMEN OF THE PLAINS 

from the meadows. Most of them, having led a life 
of idleness and luxury so long, fought against lariat 
and pack, but the two "generals" soon reduced 
them to submission. The bales of furs were so 
numerous now that they and the supplies made a 
load for every horse. The trappers themselves 
intended to walk, at least until they reached the 
plains. 

Then they dismantled Versailles as far as they 
could, hiding some things under stones, where wolf 
or bear could not reach them, and just at the twi- 
light were ready for departure. It was with real 
sorrow that Bob regarded their big, comfortable 
cabin, the doors and windows of which they had 
secured tightly in order to keep out prowling wild 
animals. 

''It's been a genuine palace, a real Versailles to 
us," he said, ''and I hate to leave it." 

' ' We may find it again some day just as it is, the 
seven of us just as we are," said Sam Strong, 
"leastways, by hopin' for the best, I feel that we 
will." 

"Good-by to our home," said sentimental Louis 
Perolet. "It has sheltered us from many a storm. 
Au revoir.^^ 

He took off his hat and waved it at the motionless 
building in the dusk. All the others did the same, 
and then turning their faces eastward, they trudged 
up the creek, the file of ponies, loaded with their 
riches, following close behind. 

Bob glanced back once, but the stout log house 
was lost in the dusk. It was not until then that he 



THE DEPARTURE 193 

realized fully the task npon which they had 
embarked. He was going back to fences, towns 
and many people. For the last two years this little 
world of the monntains was so sufl5cient to him that 
he never thought of the other, outside. He was 
returning with a sense of immense distance, not 
only in space, but in time and manners as well. 
But he resolved that he would not stay there. He 
had found companionship and satisfaction with 
these men. They, in a sense, had made him an 
equal, on the second and perhaps greater expedi- 
tion far down the Colorado. He clutched his 
father's rifle more tightly, and with such brave com- 
rades felt equal to any danger. 

Their way led up the valley over the natural trail 
by which they had entered it, and for a long time 
they walked in silence save for the tread of the 
horses. The moon came out, the stars twinkled, 
and they saw clearly the ranges and peaks, and the 
slopes clothed with forest now turning green. 

*' There's one thing I hate about this," said Sam 
Strong, *'an' that's to run away from a fellow like 
Juan Carver an' his crowd. By the great horn 
spoon, it would make my marrow jump to know that 
he was back there, sittin' in our palace, toastin' his 
feet on our hearthstone." 

**Nevaire min'," said Louis Perolet, consolingly, 
**eet was the tactics of the great Napoleon to go 
away from a place when eet suited him, an' to come 
back again also when it suited him." 

"I suppose you're right, Louis," grumbled Sam, 

*'an' if we are folio win' your Napoleon we are foi- 
ls 



194 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

lowin' the right kind of a leader. Some day 111 
take a shot at that Juan Carver that will keep him 
from ever troublin' anybody else." 

They left the creek valley after two honrs of 
steady traveling, and entered a side cleft of the 
monntains, along which they led the horses for 
about two hours more, always rising. They 
encamped about midnight, finding it much colder 
than it had been in their valley, but for fear of a 
warning to possible enemies, they did not build any 
fire. The horses were all tethered, and the men 
rolled themselves in their blankets. The journey 
was resumed early the next morning, and for a 
week they went on without trouble or incident. 
Then they were compelled to stop a while to rest 
the loaded horses, some of which were growing foot- 
sore. Fortunately they found plenty of grass and 
water, and being in no hurry they took a rest of 
their own also. 

They continued to follow in the main the trail by 
which they had come, and as they had an excellent 
sense of locality and direction, they were able to 
avoid difficulties that they had encountered before- 
For the last great range they chose the same pass 
that they had used on the outward trip. They 
knew now of one lower, but they avoided it, as 
Carver and his men, or others equally as dangerous, 
might be traveling that way. 

**An* there's one thing I want to tell you, Bob," 
said Sam Strong, as they climbed towards the snow 
line, **if you see a nice, easy precipice to fall over 
don't you fall. There mayn't be enough soft snow 



THE DEPAETURE 195 

at the bottom to break your fall, an' even if there 
was enough, you might never find us ag'in. Now, 
Bob, promise you won't do it ag'in, an' we'll all 
hope for the best." 

Bob laughed at the banter which he knew was 
wholly good-natured. 

**I give my faithful promise," he replied. **One 
exploit of that kind is enough for me." 

There was plenty of snow in the heights of the 
pass, but they had a better knowledge of the 
way now. Here the loads of the horses became 
extremely heavy, and they moved at a very slow 
pace. Fortunately they encountered no blizzard, 
which was what they feared most, but every one felt 
immense relief when they descended the last slope 
on the other side, and now had before them only 
the vast rolling plains which extended to their 
destination, but which, nevertheless, swarmed with 
great dangers as they were soon to leam. 

While they were in a pleasant valley, allowing 
the horses to recuperate after the great climb, 
a lone trapper wandered into their camp. He 
informed them that the war with the Cheyennes 
was still going on, that in fact it was at its height. 
Boman Nose and Black Kettle, their famous chiefs, 
had won some victories, and the passage of the 
plains was never more dangerous. 

**An' it'll be all the harder for you because you 
carry such a load," added the trapper, glancing 
admiringly at the numerous bales of beaver fur. 

**Yes, I s'pose so," said Sam Strong, ** though 
I'm hopin' for the best." 



196 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

**I know you won't tell me where yon got 'em,'* 
said the trapper, *^but you must have found some 
fine streams." 

** You're right both ways," said Sam with a laugh. 

*'I think I'll go look for them creeks," said the 
trapper. 

**A11 right," said Sam. ** Creeks in the moun- 
tains are always free to them that can find 'em." 

The trapper, an honest, open fellow, was as good 
as his word. He spent a night with them and 
departed the next morning on foot to look for the 
beaver streams. 

**You just watch out for them Cheyennes," he 
called back. **They are buzzin' on the plains like 
hornets, an' they sting." 

His words made an impression that stayed in 
Bob's mind. 



CHAPTEE XIV 
IN CHEYENNE HANDS 

They traveled many days, often at night in order 
to avoid the heat, as it was now midsummer, and 
their way led over the rolling swells with which 
Bob had become familiar two years before. They 
shot buffalo and antelope occasionally, but rarely 
turned aside to hunt, and never for more than a 
short distance. The grass turned quite brown 
under the strong sun, and the soil grew hard from 
the lack of rain. Nevertheless, they twice saw the 
clear trail of Indian ponies, and Strong and Cole 
reckoned that on each occasion at least one hundred 
warriors had passed. Obviously it was a time for 
anxiety, and all of them felt it. 

Bob's lively imagination, impressed already by 
the trapper's warning, created a cloud before them, 
and this cloud was made of Indian warriors. It 
was not fear, it was merely his vivid brain that 
insisted upon making pictures. He had seen the 
Cheyennes once, and at close quarters, too, and he 
knew that they were formidable foes. He was con- 
tinually searching the plains for a sight of the Dog 
Soldiers, rising under the horizon. 

** These plains are so bright and they can see us 
so far,'' said Sam Strong, **that I'd like to ride 
through thick clouds all the way to the settlement. 
Still I'm hopin' for the best as much as ever.'* 

197 



198 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

They made several wide curves to avoid regions 
that seemed to be infested by the warriors, and the 
waning summer found them stiU on the plains in the 
Indian country, but down now towards the south- 
east. Barring the midday heat, the weather was 
good for traveling, as it had been very dry, and 
they were never forced to spread a tent. Game, 
previously so plentiful, now became scarce, and all 
of them pined for fresh buffalo or deer. There had 
been no sign of an Indian trail for more than ten 
days, and all agreed that it was safe to undertake 
a short hunt. Evans and Harris remained with the 
ponies, and the others went off in different direc- 
tions. Since they had come upon the plains, and 
traveling had been easier for the ponies, they had 
been riding most of the time. 

The country was rather more rolling than usual. 
Dip followed dip, and before they had gone five 
hundred yards Bob lost sight of the camp. Horses 
and men could remain concealed as long as they 
stayed in one dip, but when they moved on they 
could be seen every time they topped a swell. He 
saw the others in the hunt several times as they 
rose upon these crests, but as he rode further and 
further he lost sight of them entirely. 

It looked like a game country, but he found noth- 
ing. There was not a sign of buffalo or deer or 
antelope. Not a Jack rabbit scurried away before 
him, but Bob retained his great pride. He would 
not go back to the camp with hands empty when 
they needed game so badly. If one only per- 
sisted one would always win, and so he rode on 



■*'i 



IN CHEYENNE HANDS 199 

and on, not realizing how masy miles he had gone. 

He noticed at length that the ground was rising, 
and that before him lay the sharpest and highest 
ridge he had seen in many days. He had an idea 
that beyond this ridge was a shallow valley, likely 
to contain grass and better game, and his spirits 
rose sharply. He urged his pony forward at a 
greater pace, and he was soon at the crest of the 
ridge. Then he saw that he had made the greatest 
mistake of his life. 

But he was right, too, in his original surmise. 
A shallow valley lay beyond the dip, and it did con- 
tain better grass, but instead of the game that he 
wished to see, there was a numerous band of Indian 
warriors, some in camp, with their ponies cropping 
the turf, and others on horseback, just returning 
from some point and about to start for another. 

Bob instantly turned his horse about, hoping that 
he had not been seen, but his hope was in vain. A 
dozen of the mounted warriors shouted, and at once 
urged their ponies into pursuit, guiding them by a 
pressure of the knee, their naked bodies glistening 
in the sun, rifles and lances shaken by uplifted 
hands, in anticipation of this prize which had 
literally ridden into their arms. 

Bob struck his horse and shouted to him. The 
animal flew across the swell. If he could only out- 
ride his pursuers, and warn his comrades, they 
might get away in time. But before he had gone 
twenty rods a great thought was born in the boy's 
mind. It was a compound of idealism, chivalry 
and gratitude. The warriors were coming so fast 



200 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

that he could never leave them out of sight. He 
owed all to these men who had taken him, a friend- 
less boy, into their band. He had resolved over 
and over again that if the time ever came he would 
repay them. The time had come now, and a wild 
thrill shot through every vein as he began to keep 
the resolve of many days. There was a strain of 
high poetry and exaltation in his nature, and when 
he took the step he never flinched. 

Bob gradually turned his pony towards the north- 
west, and soon he was riding directly away from 
his own camp. He might not save himself, but he 
could save Sam and the others. The Gheyennes 
were not yet within rifle-shot, and the miles were 
dropping behind them. He rode a strong and true 
horse, and he would lead them a long chase. He 
might even get away. 

The boy heard occasional shouts behind him, but 
for a long time he did not look back. When he did 
at last turn his gaze he saw that he was followed 
by about twenty warriors, who were spread out in 
a concave line, enclosing him, or at least his line of 
flight, between horns, as it were. So far as he 
could judge, they had neither gained nor lost. 
Another mile and still they had not gained; a sec- 
ond and third mile and they had gained. There 
was not a doubt of it. 

Now the boy bending somewhat in his saddle that 
the chance to escape trial shots might be better, 
prayed to kind Providence that it would not with- 
hold its favors that day. He prayed that his horse 
might last, that the horse's rider might keep up Mb 



....JCfitftfl 



IN CHEYENNE HANDS 201 

courage, and that both horse and rider might escape 
all shots. 

Before him stretched low, bine hills, far away, 
and almost bnried in a faint haze. He kept a 
straight conrse towards them, hoping that he might 
reach them and find forests there where one might 
hide, or at least find a better chance of escape. If 
only his good horse had sinews of steel I But surely 
horse had never responded better, as the flight was 
now long, and he had not ever faltered. 

He heard a sharp report, and a bullet flew past 
him; a second, and his horse's ear was nicked. 
The first report came from a point behind him, but 
towards the right ; the second towards the left. He 
took a hasty glance. The horses of the pursuing 
crescent were closing on him, and presently he 
would be within fair range. 

Now the boy knew that all his prayers to Provi- 
dence had been in vain. He would not escape. 
The low, blue hills had come much nearer, but they 
were not near enough. But whatever fate awaited 
him, he was sure that he had achieved his triumph. 
He had drawn the Cheyennes far away. Sam 
Strong and his comrades would escape. He had 
paid the great debt that he owed them. He felt 
anew that keen thrill of exultation. It was for a 
moment acute, penetrating and satisfying. 

Crack! went another rifle, and then a second and 
a third. They did not touch him yet, but he saw 
the dust, flying from the dry plain ahead of him, 
where they struck. It was only a matter of time 
now when a bullet should reach him or his horse. 



202 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

The Cheyennes knew it, too, and they set up a great 
shout of triumph which filled Bob with rage. He 
would make another desperate effort to escape from 
those enclosing horns, and he spoke persuasively to 
his good horse. He urged, he begged him to go 
faster. He entreated him to remember that he had 
no superior in strength and speed, and that it would 
be a disgrace to be overtaken by a lot of miserable 
Cheyenne ponies. It almost seemed to Bob that the 
horse understood. His head swayed a little from 
side to side, and his flanks heaved as he made a 
mighty effort. 

They gained perhaps a yard, but another rifle 
cracked, and a great shiver ran through the horse. 
The next instant he pitched forward and fell. It 
was so sudden that Bob had no time to check him- 
self and leap to one side. He shot over the horse's 
head, and ploughed along on his shoulder and side, 
although he managed to save himself from serious 
injury. But his rifle flew twelve or fifteen feet 
away, and when he sprang up again and stood erect, 
a Cheyenne, leaping from his horse, had already 
seized it and was waving it aloft in triumph. His 
belt also had broken as he scraped violently along, 
and with the pistol and knife in holster and sheath, 
it was lying out of his reach. Bob Norton stood 
erect, absolutely unarmed, with a chosen band of 
the Dog Soldiers of the Cheyennes in a circle around 
him. 

The boy was bruised and his bones ached. The 
skin was torn off the back of one hand, and his 
shoulder and side were covered with the dry soil of 



IN CHEYENNE HANDS 203 

the prairie, but he faced the silent circle with an 
nndannted eye. Another of the Cheyennes leaped 
down, secured the belt with pistol and knife, and in 
an instant was back on his horse. 

The Cheyennes now gave no cry of triumph, nor 
did they address a word to the youth. They merely 
regarded him at a distance of eight or ten yards, 
motionless now on their horses, gazing intently as 
if he were some new and strange specimen of 
humankind who had come before them. Half of 
them carried long lances and shields. All were 
naked to the waist-cloth, and there was not one 
among them who was not a splendid specimen of a 
bold and savage race. Their black hair hung long, 
and the magnificent coronets of eagle feathers, their 
war-bonnets, waved lightly in the slight wind. 

They were naked to the breech-cloth, and their 
lean, brown figures glowed with the tint of copper 
in the brilliant sunlight. 

Bob's eyes were drawn at last by one warrior, as 
magnificent a figure of a man as he had ever seen. 
The warrior was of early middle age and of great 
stature. His face was large, and his mouth large, 
with thin, compressed lips. When these lips were 
opened they showed two rows of white teeth, as 
even and strong as those of a wolf. He had a great 
and splendidly shaped head, of which the most dis- 
tinguishing feature was a long nose, hooked like 
that of an old Eoman, and with fine nostrils. It 
gave him a look that was commanding to the last 
degree. 

The chest and limbs of this magnificent savagel 



204 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

were powerful and covered with woven mnscle* 
He was naked except for moccasins, a scarlet breech- 
cloth adorned with little colored beads, and a cloak 
looped back from his shoulders. But this doak 
was made of the skin of that rarest of animals, a 
white buffalo, and it had been so finely tanned that 
it was as soft as velvet. 

Bob felt in his heart that this was the great chief, 
Boman Nose, and despite himself, he could not keep 
from feeling deference. But he looked directly at 
him. 

The chief's eyes met his own in a steady stare, 
and Bob plumbed their depths. He read there 
ambition, malice, hatred of himself and of the race 
to which he belonged, but with it all a certain large- 
ness, as if he could appreciate a foe who was his 
match. Bob met his gaze unflinchingly. When he 
was discovered he made one resolution which he 
had carried out, and now that he was brought to 
earth like a fox, with the hounds about him, he took 
another. He expected to die, and he would die as 
became one of the white race. He would make no 
cry for mercy. He would not utter a word, but if 
it were decreed for him to die there on the prairie, 
far from his friends, he would meet the end in 
silence. 

' But it was hard to feel even then that he had to 
die. The sunlight was brilliant, the plains wild and 
free, and the world seemed beautiful. The chief 
presently said a word or two to the warriors, and 
turning their horses with a pressure of the knee^ 
they rode in a slow and silent circle about bilDt 



IN CHEYENNE HANDS 205 

every man keeping his eye upon the boy who stood 
in their center. Bob's own eyes followed the com- 
manding presence of the chief who seemed to domi- 
nate them all with a single glance, and unconsciously 
he began to wheel slowly with the wheeling circle. 

Bob remembered afterwards that he sujBfered 
from a sort of spell, a kind of hypnotism. His fall 
and the strange action of the Cheyennes gave him 
a dizzy, vague feeling, as if he were in some mystic 
region of unreality. Around an3 around they rode, 
no one speaking, no sound whatever coming to the 
boy's ears but the light beat of the hoofs of the 
ponies, which presently became a monotonous 
rhythm, like the sound of the Hindoo's flute when 
he charms the cobra. 

Bob noticed soon that the circle was widening. 
The warriors were thirty, forty, fifty, sixty yards 
away, and a little later they stopped. His eyes, in 
all this turning, never ceased to follow the chief, and 
he saw him now take one of the long lances from 
a warrior and lean a little over his horse's neck. 

Bob understood. H^ would be speared by the 
chief in full flight. A deep shiver ran over him 
from head to foot, and his heart turned cold within 
him. Again he saw that it was a beautiful world, 
and that he did not wish to leave it. But he once 
more summoned up his resolution. He would show 
these fierce Dog Soldiers that he was as brave as 
they. He would not, run, he would not try to dodge 
the unescapable lance, but he would stand up and 
face its point, praying to Providence, which had 
been unkind hitherto, to finish it all quickly. 



206 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

He was thankful now that a veil was drawn before 
his eyes. His dizziness and the terrible tensity of 
his situation caused him to see but dimly. But he 
never ceased to look straight towards the chief, and 
he saw him raise his lance, shake it twice, utter a 
single, sharp cry and then gallop directly at him. 

It was almost an impossibility to stand still. 
Only the boy's bewildered state enabled him to do 
it. He did not fully understand just then what was 
occurring, but he heard the hoof -beats of the horse 
like thunder in his ears ; he saw the shining point 
of the lance, and the large, coppery face of the war- 
rior who held it. Then he was forced to shut his 
eyes, but something seemed to whistle by his cheek 
and the hoof-beats thundered past him. 

He opened his eyes and beheld the chief now on 
the other side of the circle, shaking the long lance. 
A low hum, a hum of admiration, came from the 
warriors, but Bob did not know then that it was for 
him. 

The chief pressed his horse with his knees again, 
uttered that sharp, little cry, and a second time 
galloped down upon the defenseless boy. Bob now 
did not close his eyes. He seemed to have lost all 
feeling, all sense of what was happening, and he 
himself seemed merely a spectator at this strange 
scene upon the prairie. On came the horse, the 
chief threw the lance, its point passed within sis 
inches of Bob's face, and the horse galloped by, so 
close that its hoofs threw dust upon him. 

And that hum of admiration rose again, and this 
time louder. The chief turned and came back to 



lb 
•1 



.»! 



IN CHEYENNE HANDS 207 

the boy, but he walked his horse, and when he 
reached Bob he sprang to the ground and uttered a 
word or two of approval. Bob looked at him with 
an anxious, uncomprehending glance, and then 
sitting down upon the prairie, laughed. 

It was the laugh of hysteria, and for a moment 
or two the Cheyennes did not disturb him. Then 
the chief motioned to him to rise to his feet. Bob 
rose and they bound his hands behind him. Then 
they helped him upon a horse, behind a warrior, the 
chief gave the word, and the whole band, after one 
long, thrilling whoop, galloped away over the 
prairie. 

Bob had only the pressure of his thighs to hold 
himself upon his horse, but he was trained to that 
method of riding, and he did it without thought or 
conscious exertion. He knew that he was weak, 
and his head was yet dizzy, but he was not going to 
fall, and the rapid motion was beginning to revive 
him somewhat. 

He never had the remotest idea how long they 
galloped, but they stopped at last in a shallow valley 
that contained a camp-fire and other warriors. 
Whether it was the original valley in which he had 
found them he could never tell, as his first glimpse 
had been too brief, but it was an intense relief to 
him to know that the journey was ended. 

The warrior, behind whom he was riding, jumped 
off his pony and then helped him to the ground. 
But Bob, with his bound arms, was unable to stand. 
He collapsed from weakness and excitement, and 
sank down in a heap. The chief strode forward, 



208 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

cut his bonds, raised him to his feet, and gave him 
a drink of water out of a calabash. The boy leaned 
against the stump of a fallen tree and revived 
slowly. 

When his eyes were clear he looked fixedly at the 
chief and his opinion did not change, that this was 
the great Eoman Nose of whom he had heard so 
much. His eyes wandered from the chief to the 
warriors, who stood near, in numbers, regarding 
him. They had high cheek bones, straight limbs, 
and high, ridged noses. The warriors were clad in 
breech-cloths only, and moccasins, as the weather 
was warm, and they wore but few ornaments, gener- 
ally strings of bear claws around the neck. Their 
hair was cut straight across their foreheads, just 
above their eyes, and a small ornamented plait hung 
down in front of each shoulder. The remainder, 
twisted with horse or buffalo hair, was divided into 
two large plaits which flowed over the back. 

Squaws too came up and gazed at Bob. Thd 
Cheyenne women were notably inferior in physique 
and looks to the men. They had wide mouths, ugly 
noses and, in fact, all their features were ugly. 
They wore skin tunics, fastened with straps over 
the shoulders, and falling almost to the knee. They 
had ornaments of beads, shells, elk tusks, and rings 
and bracelets of brass. Their hair was long and 
flowing, not braided. 

Bob was in a large temporary village of the 
Cheyennes, led by their great chiefs, Boman Nose 
and Black Kettle. Around him were the ten prind* 
pal divisions of the two branches of the Oheyenne 



y 






IN CHEYENNE HANDS 2Q9 

nation, the northern and the southern. Their camp 
was a great circle, a mile in diameter, including at 
least six hundred tepees, or a fighting force of about 
twelve hundred warriors. The ten dans, or gentes, 
in their order of rank were: 

1. Heviquesnipahis 

2. Hevhaitaneo 

3. Masikota 

4. Omisis 

5. Sutaio 

6. Wotapio 

7. Oivimana 

8. Hisiometaneo 

9. Oqutogona 
10. Hownowa 

The ten gentes were also redivided into six war- 
rior bands, every one with its own emblems and 
ritual. At the head of them stood the Hotamitaneo, 
or the famous Dog Soldiers, the ritual and instruc- 
tions of whom had been given by a supernatural dog 
to their founder; hence their name. 

Next came the Woksikitaneo, or Fox Men, who 
were called so because their leader carried cere- 
monial clubs, with the pendant skin of the fox. 
They were followed by the Himoiyogis, or Those 
With Headed Lances, because they carried lances of 
a very peculiar make. Fourth were the Mahohivas, 
or Bed Shield Owners, whose leaders bore shields 
painted red, with a pendant buffalo tail. Next to 
them were the Himatanohis, Those with the Bow 
String, who received their name because their 
leaders bore lances resembling a long bow in their 

14 



210 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

shape. Last were the HotaminasoWy or Foolish 
Dogs, composed wholly of very young warriors, 
beginners in the art of war, who were not supposed 
to have much sense. 

The tribes, or gentes, were ruled by forty-four 
chiefs, regularly elected at intervals of a few years. 
At each election forty new chiefs were chosen, while 
four older ones were selected from the retiring 
forty. These four were the head chiefs, and when 
they wished to call a council they sent around forty- 
four painted sticks to all the villages. 

Such a council had been called recently, but Bob 
knew nothing of it, nor did he know anything then 
of the composition of the Cheyenne nation. He was 
destined to learn these things later. Now he was 
concerned about what was going to happen to him 
within the next few minutes. 

**Vehoc** (Little Chief), said Boman Nose. 

Bob shook his head. He did not have the faintest 
idea what **vehoc^' meant. 

** Strong boy. Brave boy,'' said the chief in 
English. 

** Thanks, '* said Bob, who wished to deserve the 
Indian ^s praise. *^I may be strong and I may be 
brave, but I'm willing to tell you, Mr. Boman Nose^ 
that I'm just about played out." 

**Tou go tepee,'' said Boman Nose. "We no 
hurt you — to-day." 

Bob noticed the pause before "to-day," and he 
had to repress a tendency to shiver. But his life 
in the wilderness had taught him to make the best 
of the passLDg moment, and he went willingly with 



IN CHEYENNE HANDS 211 

the two warriors, who gnided him to a buffalo-skin 
tepee. It was a small place, with only a skin or 
two between him and the bare ground, but it was a 
haven of rest to one so tired and sore as he. He 
sank upon a wolf skin, and in some faint spirit of 
irony, waved a good-night to the two warriors who 
had brought him there. 

**You drink?** said one. 

**You eat?*' said the other. 

Bob roused himself at these words. 

**Yes, an emphatic *yes' to both of you,'* he said. 

They did not understand his words, but the mean- 
ing of his tone was plain to them. They brought a 
calabash of good, cool water, and buffalo steaks 
freshly cooked. Bob drank thirstily and ate with 
a great appetite. Then he waved his hand to the 
warriors who had stood by, silent and impassive. 

**It's really good-night this time,'* he said, **I'm 
just bound to go to sleep.** 

He had no idea how long it was until night, and 
he did not care. His own fate, too, had glided into 
the background. He was exhausted, and rest was 
the only mortal affair that concerned him much. 

The two Cheyennes went out and closed the skin 
doors of the tepee. It was dusky now within the 
lodge, and the boy felt a great peace. He had 
eaten, he had drunk, and he had found rest. His 
comrades were up and away with their furs. Let 
the future look to itself ; it could not bother him. 

He doubled a comer of the wolf skin under his 
head, making a pillow. Then he floated off on the 
pleasant sea of sleep. 



CHAPTEB XV 
A MODERN MAZEPPA 

Bob was awakened the next morning by the lift- 
ing of the flap of his tent. A flood of snnsbine 
poured in, and his eyes opened. Then a figare 
bulked large in the opening, and the captive stared 
at it in great astonishment. Both figure and face 
were familiar, but for a while he. could not believe 
that what he saw was true. 

Yet it was true. There was the swarthy face, the 
close-set eyes, and the pointed chin of Juan Carver. 
Moreover, he showed his teeth in a malicious smile 
as he looked at the boy. 

** Yes,'^ he said, **it is I, Carver, whom you neither 
expect nor want to see. No, I am not a prisoner 
like you. I am on the best of terms with the great 
chiefs, Boman Nose and Black Kettle, whom you 
will see here beside me if you will deign to take your 
eyes off my face. ' ' 

Bob rose to his feet. Long sleep had steadied bis 
nerves, and he resolutely stilled every tremor. The 
very presence of Carver made him more determined 
than ever not to show fear, nor to ask for mercy. 
He stepped out of the tepee, no one opposing, and 
stood in the sunlight, which was warm and grateful. 

Carver had spoken truly when he said that Boman 
Nose and Black Kettle were with him. Black 
Kettle was somewhat shorter and darker thaa 

919 




A MODERN MAZEPPA 213 

Boman Nose, but he had all the bearing of a leader, 
and he, too, wore a fine robe made of light buffalo 
skin. Both chiefs carried shields of the stoutest 
buffalo hide, painted and decorated profusely with 
heraldic signs and a history of their exploits. In 
fact, nearly all the Cheyenne warriors whom Bob 
saw carried such shields. When Bob looked at 
them and bowed gravely he condescended to notice 
Carver. 

**I should not be surprised to see you here," he 
said. **I know that you have all the qualities of a 
renegade. ' ' 

As he thought of it. Bob saw that Carver's pres- 
ence in the Cheyenne town was not at all extraor- 
dinary. He was a freebooter, and it would suit him 
to be hand in glove with the Cheyennes. 

* * Bad names don *t hurt me, ' ' said Carver. * * I am 
glad that the Cheyennes are my friends. Both 
Boman Nose and Black Kettle are old ones. I did 
not reach their village until last night, and when I 
found that you were here I gave them news worth 
knowing. ^ ' 

Bob's face fell. He knew that Carver had told 
the chief of his comrades and their treasure of furs. 
Carver, quick enough to make inferences, knew that 
Bob, when first seen, could not have been very far 
away from his comrades, and the fact that they 
were so well to the eastward proved that they were 
on their return to civilization, with a great taking 
of beaver. 

Bob recovered his countenance, and said with an 
assumption of carelessness: 



214 HOBSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

'*I suppose that you are speaking of my friends. 
Well, I got lost from them, and I fancy that they 
are at least a couple of hundred miles further east 
by this time/* 

Carver looked at him closely, but Bob bore the 
scrutiny, without a change of feature. 

**Tou may be telling the truth,*' said Carver. 
**We*d like mighty well to take that little train. 
I want the furs and the Cheyennes want the scalps, 
but I don't mind telling you that we have sent out 
scouts who have returned without them.'' 

Bob felt a glow. His comrades had got clean 
away, and he had not made his great flight in vain. 
Carver, still watching him closely, saw him smile. 

**We'll get them yet," said the freebooter. 

**Tou'll never get them," said Bob. 

**Vehoc," said Eoman Nose, applying to Bob the 
word that he had used the afternoon before. 

**What does he meant" asked Bob of Carver. 

** ^Vehoc' in Cheyenne means Little Chief," 
replied the man. ** Eoman Nose rather admires 
you. He tells me that you bore yourself well when 
he rode at you with the spear." 

**I thank him for that much. I like him a good 
deal better than I do you," said the boy. 

**Well, as to that," said Carver, grinning, 
** Eoman Nose is not exactly growing wings. While 
he admires your courage under one test, he expects 
to put it to another soon." 

Carver's tone was full of malice, but Bob again 
refused to show fear. 

'*It may be so," he said, **ahd if it is so I will do 



..JA 



A MODERN MAZEPPA 215 

my best to stand it. But just now I'm hungry. 
Tell 'em I want something to eaf 

Carver spoke to Boman Nose who seemed to have 
a sense of humor. 

''Vehoc rather eat than have big talk,'' he said. 
"He eat here by ohe." 

" *Ohe' means river," said Carver, **but ought 
rather to be *ohec,' which is little river." 

*'So you have a river, have you?" said Bob. 

"Yes, but as I said, it is a little one." 

He pointed to a shallow stream, just beyond a 
fringe of cottonwoods, and Bob walked to its bank 
with his captors. 

"Ehona," said Boman Nose. 

Bob looked at him in doubt. 

" *Ehona' means a stone," said Carver. "He 
wants you to sit on the flat rock you see there." 

"Thanks for his courtesy," said Bob, and sat 
down. 

There, good food, both buffalo and deer, and 
water were brought to him, and he ate and drank 
with satisfaction. Meanwhile the people came 
again to look at him, and there were many squaws 
among them. 

Most of these women brought their work with 
them, and the work was of different kinds. The 
Cheyenne women, when they reached sufficient age, 
joined guilds like the labor unions of the white man, 
and when they became full members they were 
called "Moninico," which meant women who have 
chosen. One union made the tepees, that is the 
bare walls, another adorned them, another tanned 



216 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

and decorated buffalo robes, another moccasins and 
leggings, and there were yet other guilds, the work 
for every one being different. 

The warriors who came to see him were mostly 
in pairs. This was due to the Cheyenne custom of 
a young man taking a * * ho wi, * * or comrade, a friend- 
ship that endured through life, after marriage as 
well as before. Carver, who seemed to be much 
pleased with himself, told Bob more about the 
Indians as he ate. 

**The Cheyennes are a. great nation, '* he said. 
'*The warriors are brave and skilful. They are 
organized, with their laws and their religion. The 
big tepee over there is their Council House. In it 
are the Four Sacred Arrows which are their holiest 
and most precious possession. Only the older men 
dare to mention them by name. On big public occar 
sions they are brought out to be worshiped, but 
only by the warriors. No woman has ever been 
allowed to come near them, or to see them.*' 

Bob was interested, despite himself. 

**And these arrows are their guardian deities f 
he asked. 

**They are,^' replied Carver. **They used to 
carry them into battle to insure victory, but twenty- 
five or thirty years ago two of them were taken in 
a great conflict by the Pawnees, and have never been 
recovered. Two others were blessed and sanctified 
by the priests, and made to take their place, but the 
loss of the two original ones was the greatest blow 
that ever befell the Cheyenne nation.'' 

Bob's interest continued, but he said to Carver; 



-*: 



A MODERN BiAZEPPA 217 

"Why do you tell me these things!'' 

**I'in willing to make it as easy for you as I can," 
repUed the freebooter, ''until the time comes to 
apply the actual tests/' 

Bob thought that the man was trying to frighten 
him, and he turned scornfully away. Carver said 
no more, but left in a few minutes. Bob remained 
where he was, seated on the flat stone. The long, 
numbing process through which he had gone was 
now about finished, and he was fully awake to his 
situation. He was unbound, and his strength had 
returned, but there was no chance whatever of 
flight. The Cheyenne warriors and waspish, old 
squaws were everywhere about him. The great cir- 
cular village was on both sides of the shallow 
stream, and the prisoner was at least a quarter of 
a mile from the nearest point on its rim. Whatever 
it might be, he could not escape this test of which 
Carver spoke so maliciously. 

Bob did not doubt that it meant death, and he 
rebelled fiercely against the thought. Here was a 
great village with perhaps three thousand people 
in it, and they were all happy as human life went. 
The squaws went about their work, children were 
playing, the warriors mended their weapons or 
lounged in the sun. He alone was doomed. He 
choked, but looked down again at the river lest any 
one should see fear in his face. 

After a while Roman Nose, Black Kettle, Carver 
and others came back to him. The two chiefs looked 
at him fixedly, and it seemed to Bob that there was 
a solitary gleam of pity in the gaze of Boman Nose. 



218 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

**Come with us,'* said Carver, and Bob, rising 
without a word, went. 

They led the way to the outskirts of the village, 
to a point on its rim facing the northwest, where 
the brown plains rolled away, swell after swell, to 
the horizon. A great crowd, silent, but watching 
intently, followed. When they stopped it was again 
Carver who spoke. 

*'We want to know from you,*' he said to Bob, 
** which way Strong and his party have gone. We 
expected our scouts to discover them last night, but 
they did not. Now you must tell us.'* 

Boman Nose and Black Kettle nodded in 
affirmation. 

Bob's figure stiffened. They must think him a 
child if he would help them, after the sacrifice he 
had made for his comrades. 

**I do not know which way they have gone,*' he 
replied, *'and if I knew I would not tell you.'* 

*' Perhaps you feel that way now," said Carver, 
*'I've no doubt you do, but you may feel differently 
before many minutes. The bird that can sing will 
have to do it this time. ' ' 

**I will not give you a particle of information 
that can help you," said Bob, quietly. 

'* There is the torture," said Carver in a tone of 
menace. 

*'Even so," said Bob, although he shuddered, "I 
still will not speak." 

The two chiefs, who seemed to understand 
English, although they spoke it but little, at 
least to Bob, frowned. But Carver showed Us 



A MODERN MAZEPPA 219 

sharp, white teeth, and smiled in his evil way. 

*'It will be the better for you if you tell,*' he said. 
"Put us on the track of Strong and the others, and 
you shall be spared. The chiefs promise it. You 
will not be released, at least not now, but you will 
be treated well. Look at this village; it is not a 
bad life for those who know the wilderness. Choose 
that or worse.*' 

**I have nothing to say,*' replied Bob. 

"Think again; think hard and you will find 
something. ' * 

"I have made up my mind,'* replied Bob, firmly. 

Carver spoke rapidly to the chiefs in their own 
tongue, and they nodded their heads. Then he 
turned again to Bob. It seemed that the man had 
a sneering spirit, and some knowledge beyond that 
of an ordinary frontiersman. 

"Indians are friends to their friends," he said, 
"but they are very bitter foes to their foes. Then, 
they have no use for milk and water. Now you are 
a foe, and since you will not speak they naturally 
turn to the torture, but by some chance a spark of 
mercy has lodged in the breast of Roman Nose. 
He has denied us the faggot and the stake, but he 
agrees to make a spectacle for his people." 

Bob looked at him, but said nothing. 

"The Cheyennes insist on amusement," said 
Carver, "and Boman Nose and Black Kettle, who 
are both statesmen, will give it to them. They are 
ready." 

A warrior advanced, leading with a lariat a 
powerful mustang, one of the largest that Bob had 



220 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

ever seen, a wild and fiery animal, too, as the war- 
rior, a strong man, was compelled to swing hard on 
the lariat. Four other warriors seized Bob and 
lifted him to the horse's back. Then they bonnd 
him, with his feet under the sides of the mustang, 
and his body bent forward on the neck and shoulders. 

*'Will you speak f asked Carver. 

**I know nothing to tell,'* replied the boy, ^^aa9 
if I knew I wouldn't tell you." 

Carver said something to the warrior who held 
the horse. The man instantly slipped off the lariat 
and sprang away. 

The mustang looked about for a few moments, and 
Bob could feel him trembling all over. Then he raced 
away towards the center of the village, and with a 
wild shout, mounted Cheyennes started in pursuit, 
striking with switches at the frightened and angry 
mustang. Squaws and children threw sticks and clods 
of earth at horse and involuntary rider as they passed. 

Bob was made almost breathless by the wild 
gallop of the mustang, but he understood. He was 
to be chased about the village, and be scourged with 
switches and missiles for the benefit of the whole 
Cheyenne population. When he was finally taken 
from the horse he would be so broken that he would 
be glad to tell anything he knew. 

The boy, bent far down on the horse's neck, could 
not see very well, but as the mustang galloped about 
he was conscious of a mass of brown, excited faces, 
and he heard a continuous shouting. He was struck 
now and then by a missile, but he did not feel the 
bruise. 



A MODERN MAZEPPA 221 

It was great sport for the Cheyeimes. There 
were worse things to which a prisoner could be sub- 
jected, but since those were denied them, this was 
acceptable. They chased the frightened mustang 
around and around the village meadows. At least 
fifty horsemen were following him now, the riders 
leaning forward for a cut with a switch at either 
the horse or the burden on his back. 

Bob struggled hard to keep his senses, and by 
mere impulse he pulled continually at the thongs 
that held his arms. He sought also to ease his 
position and stop the intolerable jolting. 

The sport grew wilder. Warriors, squaws and 
children thrilled with the excitement of it. Boman 
Nose, Black Kettle and Carver stood grimly by as 
the excited mustang galloped about, driven around 
and around by the horde. The numbness and dizzi- 
ness that Bob had felt after his flight from the 
Cheyennes, came over him again, but he made a 
continued effort to keep conscious and remain in 
the easiest position on the horse. 

A boy, somewhere in the horde, shot an arrow, 
more of a toy than anything else, but it struck the 
mustang in the flank, and stung. The horse, now 
insane with fright and fear, suddenly made a bolt 
directly through the ring of Cheyennes. People 
rushed to one side to keep from being trampled 
down, and the masses kept back the pursuing horse- 
men who sought now to catch the mustang and the 
prisoner that he bore. 

But a slip had occured in the plans of Carver and 
the two chiefs. The mustang, freed for a moment 



222 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

from the goad of the switches and missiles, and 
seeing a clear space before him, made a rush for 
the plain. Two warriors on foot tried to seize him 
by the mane, but they were not quick enough and 
were compelled to leap back to avoid those tramp- 
ling hoofs. 

The mustang cleared the rim of the village and 
he Saw freedom before him, the brown plain stretch- 
ing away to the blue horizon, and nobody to torment 
him. He was in such a fever of rage, excitement 
and fear that his strength was the strength of three. 
He arched his back to make his burden lighter, laid 
back his ears a little, and ran with a speed worthy 
of the best mustang in all the Cheyenne village. 
The brown earth flew beneath his hoofs, and tiie 
gentle swells raced past. 

Behind the mustang came a horde of mounted 
Cheyennes, eager now to repair the slip and to 
retake the prisoner. But they did not reckon with 
the full speed of the mustang. His involimtary 
rider, too, bent forward almost like a jockey, 
seemed to urge him to a faster pace. 

Carver and the chiefs had mounted and pursued. 
Carver was raging, but a faint smile once or twice 
passed over the grim features of Eoman Nose. 
Bob himself was dimly conscious of what had haj)- 
pened. The Indian village was behind him, but the 
knowledge brought him no great thrill. He was too 
much exhausted, too much numbed to feel it, but he 
was conscious that there was only space before him. 

The Cheyennes shouted and sought to urge their 
horses to greater speed. The sound reached the 



^i^ 



A MODERN MAZEPPA 223 

mustang and increased his rage and fear. His 
strength, bom of a great impulse, grew. EUs head 
was thrust out a little further, the sensitive ears 
quivered, and the long body, stretching itself for a 
faster flight, flew over the ground. 

The mustang was gaining and the Cheyennes saw 
it. A little longer, and the gain was more decisive. 
There would be no chance for any warrior to throw 
his lariat, and Roman Nose gave the word to fire. 

Bifles cracked and bullets sang by the mustang. 
One grazed his flank, drawing a little blood. It 
was like the touch of fire, and his indignant heart 
swelled to greater efforts. Right well that day did 
he prove himself a king of the prairie. He ran 
straight and true, there was no curving about which 
would enable his pursuers to gain upon him, but his 
head was always pointed to the blue horizon that 
hung over the northwest. The bullets still spat- 
tered around him now and then, but most of them 
fell short, and the sound of shots and shouts was 
further away. 

The bullets yet came, but now all of them fell 
short. Nevertheless, the mustang did not decrease 
his speed. The burden on his back was quiet, not 
impeding him much, and he was as strong as ever. 
In his own horse heart he felt his triumph, and 
raising his head he neighed once. Then he sped on 
with renewed speed, and the Cheyennes and their 
horses sank into the prairie. 

Bob came out of a period of unconsciousness and 
found that the mustang was walking. He heard no 
sound, but the steady hoof-beats. All his limbs 



224 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

and joints were aching, and the full weight of his 
body rested upon the horse. He pulled at one arm, 
and to his great amazement it came free from the 
thongs. It was cut, and he had probably been tug- 
ging at it for a long time without being conscious 
of the fact, but here it was free. 

The surprising knowledge filled the boy with new 
life. The free hand and arm, at which he looked, 
were his own, and he could do great things with 
them. He began to pluck at the thongs holding the 
other arm. They, too, were loosened by and by. 
Then he remembered that he had carried a clasp 
knife in a small inside pocket of his coat. It was 
one that could easily have been overlooked by the 
Cheyennes, and when he felt tremblingly for it, he 
found it. 

A few slashes released waist and legs, and then 
the boy, with a great and painful effort, sat up in 
the shape of a man on the bare back of the mustang. 
He was more like a bent, old man than a strong and 
active youth, but now he rode and was not merely 
carried. 

He was very faint and weak, and he would have 
fallen to the ground, but the mustang's pace sank 
to the lowest and easiest walk, and he pulled him- 
self together enough to take a comprehensive look 
about him. 

The boy saw only the great plains, rolling away 
toward every point of the horizon, unbroken any- 
where by a hill or a tree or a horseman. The Chey- 
ennes were left far behind, and they would not bd 
able to follow his trail on the hard, sun-baked 



A MODERN MAZEPPA 225 

prairie. He understood that he had escaped. By 
a miracle, as it were, he was out of the hands of his 
enemies. Their own trick, intended to torture and 
deride him, had turned upon them. He lifted his 
face to heaven and gave thanks. It was a face so 
dirty and begrimed that Sam Strong himself would 
not have known it, but for a few moments it was 
transfigured and glorified. Escaped and free! 
He raised his bruised hands and shook them in 
exultation. 

Bob was so much occupied with the present that 
he took no thought of the future. He was proud of 
being able to keep his seat on the mustang, which 
now walked slowly on, his glossy, brown coat wet 
from head to heel with perspiration, his great eyes 
showing weariness, and a dim sort of inquiry as to 
what it all meant. 

He was a noble mustang. He had been the 
largest, swiftest and wildest in all the Cheyenne 
village, and he had run a good race. But the vic- 
tory won and the tormentors gone, he was very 
tired. He was conscious that his rider had straight- 
ened up, although he seemed to be more uncertain 
of his seat, but the mustang made no attempt to 
shake him off. 

Bob leaned forward again and clutched the 
mustang *s mane tightly. His weakness was com- 
ing back and the plains swam before him. But the 
long, coarse hair, grasped in his hands, sustained 
him and the mustang took no notice, merely walking 
on at a pace that did not seem to be much more 
than creeping. 

15 



226 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

The rider did not know how many hours passed. 
At times he saw clearly, and he knew that the coun- 
try had not changed. At other times he seemed to 
be in a dream, and the faces of the Cheyennes came 
back to him. He awoke from one of these dreams 
with a shock, and saw that the mustang was stand- 
ing still. The cessation from the slow walk had 
caused the shock, and the boy began to feel a great 
pity for the horse and himself. 

They were together on the lone prairie, and he 
owed the mustang a mighty debt that he could not 
pay. The speed and strength of a dumb animal 
had brought him away from torture, and death to 
come. There was not an ungrateful fiber in him, 
and he leaned forward and patted the mustang on 
the neck. 

* * Good horse I * * he said aloud. * * Good old horse I 
The finest horse that ever was born I*' 

It may have been a mere coincidence, but the 
mustang stretched out his long neck and neighed. 
Bob felt at once that the relation of friends was 
established between them. He had spoken to the 
horse, and the horse had answered. 

**Good horse!** he repeated. **IVe ridden you 
long and hard, but it was from no choice of mine. 
Now you shall have the rest that you have so well 
earned.'' 

He slipped from the horse's back to the ground, 
and he would have fallen on his face, but again he 
grasped the mane of the mustang and saved him- 
self. The horse did not resent his fierce dutch, 
but turned his head a little and looked at him. Bol 



■ ■# • ■ ■ 



A MODERN MAZEPPA 227 

gazed into the great, dusky horse ieyes, and it seemed 
to him that he read there a feeling akin to his own. 

**Yon're lonely, partner,** he said. **I'm sorry, 
bnt there *s no other horse here, and it's jnst you 
and I. Come on, I don't know which way we're 
going, I don't know what we're going to, nor when 
we'll get there, but we're going." 

He did not release the mane, and the mustang 
made no effort to pull away. So the two, now walk- 
ing side by side, started again, the horse steady and 
upright, Bob staggering, but with one hand wound 
firmly in the long coarse hair that supported him. 

But the boy could not last long. He had been 
through too much. The plains and the sky darkened 
before him, and he liimg a dead weight on the mus- 
tang, which stopped. 

I've come to the end, comrade," said Bob, patting 
the horse's head with his free hand, **and I won't 
burden you any longer. Go on; you'll find other 
horses somewhere on the prairie. I stop here." 

He released the horse entirely and now, unable 
to support his own weight, he sank to the ground. 
He was so far gone in collapse that he did not even 
care to make any further effort. His spirit, at that 
moment, was one of resignation. But he raised 
his head a little, made a weak gesture to the horse, 
and repeated: 

*'Go on! I stay herel" 

The mustang did not go on. He turned and 
gazed from great dusky eyes at his fallen rider, and, 
unless Bob was dreaming, he saw pity there. They 
were friends 1 They were comrades. The mustang 



228 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

/ 

I 

came closer, and touched the boy's face with his 
nose, as if in a spirit of compassion. Bob felt that 
there was one who would not desert him. He could 
not rise now, but he reached up and stroked the 
horse's face. 

^^Just you and I!'' he murmured. **Here I stay 
and here you mean to stay with me. ' ' 

The darkness of the plains and sky suddenly 
turned to complete blackness, and he sank into a 
stupor. 

When Bob came to himself he was lying upon his 
back on the prairie, and the twilight was coming. 
The horse still stood by him. He may have nibbled 
for a while at the burnt grass, but the sound of the 
boy's movement had brought him back. 

Bob, weakened by his great nervous strain, felt a 
throb of emotion. This was indeed a friend as true 
as steel. He staggered to his feet, but all his mus- 
cles were stiff, and his bones were sore. Once more, 
he took the mustang by the mane, and there was no 
resistance. 

*' You've had a rest, good old horse," he said, talk- 
ing to his comrade, because the mustang was then, 
in nearly every sense, a human being to him, **and 
I'll ride again." 

He dragged himself upon the horse's back» 
steadied himself there, and then bade him go on as 
he would. The mustang, fully refreshed and onee 
more the strongest of his kind, started at a long 
easy walk toward the East. The wind may have 
brought pleasant odors to nostrils, far more acute 
than those of man, or it may have been instinct, tat 



A MODERN MAZEPPA 229 

the mustang not only knew where he was going, he 
knew also when he would get there, and what he 
would find when he arrived. 

The easy, swinging walk that ate up ground so 
fast continued a long time. The twilight merged 
into the night, the moon and the stars came out, and 
the sky was clear and cold after the hot day. The 
coolness was refreshing to Bob, and he seemed to 
gather a little strength. He saw, finally, a thin, 
dark line on the moonstruck horizon, and he knew 
that it was trees. Trees, extending away to right 
and left, in that manner, indicated water, and he 
felt now, for the first time, that his throat and mouth 
were burnt. 

The horse neighed, and broke into a trot. In an- 
other minute he was through the trees, and at the 
sandy edge of the shallow stream of clear cold water, 
from which he drank eagerly. Bob slipped from his 
back, and, kneeling down, drank beside him. Life 
flowed back into him as he drank up the living 
water, and, when he and the horse were both satis- 
fied and he had rested awhile on the bank, he took 
off his torn clothing and bathed. It was soothing 
to his scratches and bruises, and, when he had dried 
himself, and put on his clothing again, he sought 
the softest place that he could find in the grass, 
which grew in length and abundance along the 
stream. 

He was terribly hungry, but he tried not to think 
of it, and soon forgot everything in a deep, dream- 
less sleep, the slumber of exhaustion. He lay so 
still in the long grass that a man, ten feet away^ 



230 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

would not have noticed him. Bnt the mustang, 
seeking the softest clumps for his teeth, looked at 
him now and then, and it may be that the sense of 
comradeship was as strong in the horse heart as it 
had been in the boy heart. 

The mustang after a while, with a long sigh of 
content, lay down and rolled a little, then became 
quiet and motionless. An hour passed, and a long 
weird howl came from the open swells. It was the 
cry of the prairie wolf informing his brethren that 
the odor of pleasant food had come to his nostrils. 
It is possible that his instinct, as good as that of the 
horse, had told him that the boy who lay sleeping 
in the grass was unarmed. 

Wolf answered wolf and soon the hungry line 
drew near. Fierce eyes looked down among the 
trees, and lips crinkled back from sharp teetlu They 
could not yet see the figure of the boy in the deep 
grass, but the odor of food was strong and it drew 
them on with the greatest temptation that a wolf 
can know. They crept into the belt of trees. 

The mustang felt that something was wrong. He 
rose to his feet standing almost beside the boy, and 
saw the red eyes and sharp teeth of the advancing 
line. He had seen such brutes before and he hated 
them. He did not move now, but his own eyes 
began to gleam as they had done, when he was ftrst 
beaten and pursued by the Cheyennes. 

The mustang, standing there in the moonlight, 
was a formidable companion. The wolves, with 
their eyes of preternatural acuteness, could see how 
the great figure was tense and drawn, ready to lash 



A 



THE ISLAND IN THE RIVEE 233 

**I see him,'* said Jack, **a horse without a saddle 
or a bridle, but he donH look like a wild horse. 
Anyway, as the wind is bio win' toward him, he has 
scented us long ago, an' he'd have been up an' away, 
if he'd been a real live mustang." 

"It means somethin', shore," said Pete, "an' it's 
one o' the things that we've got to find out." 

They rode forward warily, not wishing to alarm 
the lone horse, but he showed no fear. As they came 
nearer, he raised his head and neighed, and the horse 
of Pete replied in kind to his friendly salute. 

"He's used to people, some kind of people. That's 
shore," said Pete. "Now I call this right strange. 
Wh'ar such a horse is some kind of human bein' 
ought to be." 

"There he is," said the sharp-eyed Jack, "an' 
he's dead. See him stretched out in the grass! A 
white man, too." 

"Yes, I do see him," said Pete, rising in his stir- 
rups, "but how do you account for the horse havin' 
no saddle an' no bridle T Mebbe it's an ambush, an' 
that's only a stuffed figger in the grass." 

"It's real," repeated Jack, "and there ain't any 
ambush. There ain't a chance for any." 

They rode forward among the cottonwoods. The 
horse moved a yard or two away, but showed no fear 
of them. 

"It's a boy I" exclaimed Jack, "an' he ain't dead, 
by thunder ! He's asleep. If he sleeps like that out 
here in the Indian country, how would he sleep in 
town in his little trundle bed I " 

"He's been manhandled," said Pete, whose ex- 



234 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

perienced eye had mn over the prostrate form, '*an' 
it's stupor as well as sleep/' 

He sprang down, and seized Bob by the shoulders. 

**Here, wake up, young feller,'' he exclaimed. 
**The sun's risin' high, and it's time for yon to go 
milk the cows." 

Bob opened his eyes, and rose to his feet in bewil- 
derment. It was some time before he could see 
clearly, and understood who had come. Then his 
thankfulness was great. 

** White men, thank God I" he exclaimed. **You're 
friends I You can't be anything elsel" 

**0f course we're friends," said Pete. **Here, 
young feller. Steady I Steady! Don't jrou go to 
tumblin' over again. You must have been through 
a lot. I can see it. Here, Jack, your flask, quick 1" 

Something hot and fiery was poured down Bob's 
throat, and he stood erect once more. His weakness 
had really been due to excitement at the coming of 
the two white men, as his long sleep had largely 
restored his nerves. But his wild ride had come to 
a happy end, and he knew that he was now with 
those who could help him. He looked longingly at 
a little knapsack that the older man carried. 

**I haven't had anything to eat since yesterday 
morning," he said. 

**Then you must be hungry," said Pete, taking 
from the knapsack some bread and strips of bacon. 
**Set down thar, an' see if these will make any sort 
o' an appeal to your palate." 

Bob sat down on the grass, and quickly proved that 
they made a most powerful appeal. The two men 




THE ISLAND IN THE RIVER 235 

looked at him, with curiosity, but they yet refrained 
from asking questions. The mustang came near, 
and touched his nose in friendly fashion to that of 
Peters horse. Pete's eyes ran swiftly over the 
mustang, noting his long, easy lines and powerful 
build. 

**Fine horse, that,'* he said. **I wonder ef he 
belongs to the boy, an' I wonder why he ain't got on 
any saddle and bridle?" 

Bob looked up from his bread and bacon. 

**I belong to him," he said. 

**Now I'll be smoked if I know what you mean by 
that," said Pete. 

Bob smiled, rather wearily. 

**I ought to belong to him," he said, ** since he took 
me out of the Cheyenne village yesterday, brought 
me clean away from Eoman Nose, Black Kettle and 
their people, and, for all I know, may have watched 
over me while I was sleeping here. ' ' 

Pete and Jack showed signs of the liveliest 
interest. 

**Tell us all about it, if you're ready," said Pete. 

Bob began his story, the two sitting down on the 
grass beside him, that they might listen at their ease. 
But very soon they straightened up, and their lips 
parted, as the tale went on. Every detail of that 
wild ride was vivid in Bob's memory, and he told it 
from a full heart. The picture was full of color. It 
stood out complete, and like life itself, before the two 
listeners, who drew long breaths, when Bob finished. 

**You're rights" said Pete. **It's the mustang 
that saved you. But that long ride broke hiTn to the 



236 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

use of man, while it didn^t break his spirit. See, 
how he hangs around you. ' * 

**Good horse,'' said Bob. 

"Since youVe told us who you are and where yon 
come from,'' said Pete, *4t's only right that you 
should know who we are. This worthless young 
feller here is Jack Stillwell an' I'm Pete Trudeau. 
We're scouts for the United States army, an' Colo- 
nel George Forsyth with fifty men, scouts an' skirm- 
ishers too, ain't far from here. We're detached by 
General Sheridan to look for the Cheyennes, an' Jack 
an' me are on a little scout o' our own this momin'. 
It's lucky for you as well as us that we found yon, 
'cause we know now that Eoman Nose an' a big force 
ain't far away." 

** Maybe you can lend me a saddle and bridle, a 
rifle and some ammunition," said Bob, "and then I 
can look for my own party." 

But Pete Trudeau sagely shook his head. 

"We kin lend you them things," he said, "but it 
won't do for you to go roamin' around now in search 
of your friends. These plains are alive with 
Cheyennes, an' you'd shorely be killed and scalped 
inside o' twenty-four hours. It's pure luck that's 
saved you so far. Ef your friends are smart, they've 
made off to the hills somewhar." 

Bob looked about him helplessly. 

"What Pete tells you is true," said Jack. 
"There's nothing for you to do but mount that 
mustang, and ride with us to Colonel Forsyth. Ton 
can find your friends later, an' you've got to choose 
between life an' death. It's life to go with ns.^' 



• f-iliCii 



THE ISLAND IN THE RIYEE 287 

Stillwell spoke with the greatest earnestness, and 
Bob was impressed. But he meant to find his com- 
rades some time or other, no matter how long it took 
him to do it. 

**I choose life, of conrse, in preference to death," 
he said, smiling faintly. **If one of you can spare 
me a piece of rope or a rawhide. 111 catch my mus- 
tang and we can be off. ' * 

Trudeau had the rawhide, with which Bob made a 
rude kind of knot. He had no trouble in catching 
the mustang, which seemed to be tamed thoroughly, 
and he sprang upon his back. 

**Now," he exclaimed, refreshed by the food, **I*11 
ride with you.'' 

**We gallop at once to Forsyth,'' said Trudeau, 
'*Your news about the Cheyennes is important.'^ 

They rode swiftly toward the north, the three 
of them, and they would have been stirrup to stir- 
rup, but Bob had no stirrup. They kept close to 
the river, which broadened out considerably in 
places, but which was always shallow. Two hours, 
and they entered a little hollow among some cot- 
tonwoods. Bob saw soldiers walking back and 
forth, rifle on shoulder, and beyond them other sol- 
diers. All were weatherbeaten and in faded imi- 
f orms. A straight, active and alert man, an officer 
by his epaulets, came forward at the sound of 
the galloping hoofs, and Trudeau and Stillwell 
sprang to the ground. Bob, feeling that he was 
not as much at home as they, remained on the 
mustang. 

The officer glanced at the boy, and then turned his 



238 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

attention to Trndeau and Stillwell, who had saluted 
respectfully* 

**It appears that you found something,'' he said. 

**Yes, Colonel,'' replied Trudeau, acting as 
spokesman by right of age. **We ran across this 
boy asleep in the grass. He escaped from the 
Cheyennes yesterday, and we knew from what he 
said that Eoman Nose an' his whole force ain't far 
away." 

The officer's figure became more rigid and a spark 
leaped up in his eyes. Then his face fell a little as 
he looked at his force and saw the smallness of its 
numbers. But in an instant his face glowed again, 
with pride in his little band, and perhaps with the 
thrill of coming conflict. 

"Then there may be a meeting, Pete," he said, 
' ' and if so, we '11 try to bear our part in it. Mean- 
while, come with me. You, too, my boy, and we'll 
hear further details." 

They sat by a small fire, and Bob told it all again. 

** We've got to find that village or the trail, or it's 
people, if they've gone, no matter what the odds," 
said Colonel Forsyth. **It's what we've come out 
for." 

Trudeau and Stillwell nodded. 

** Are you willing to go with us, my boy!" said the 
Colonel, kindly. 

**I am, sir," replied Bob, with emphasis. 

**Then you're enlisted. Bob," said Colonel Por^ 
syth, calling him by his first name. ** Pete, you and 
Jack find him a saddle, bridle, arms and amniunitian» 
and we '11 march at once. ' ' 



THE ISLAND IN THE RIVER 239 

Bob was soon provided with all that he needed, 
and the trumpet sounded ** Boots and Saddles.*' 
The little band of fifty mounted and rode out upon 
the prairie. Trudeau and Stillwell and Abner 
Grover, generally called Sharp Grover, a man of 
nearly fifty, acting as guides, were trying to make a 
reckoning of the direction in which the Cheyenne 
village lay. Bob confessed frankly that he did not 
know, but, by putting two and two together, they 
surmised that it was toward the southwest. So they 
left the Arickaree and rode over the plains. 

Now Bob looked at his new comrades, and they 
filled his eye. Most of them were young, and most 
of them also had been soldiers in the Civil War, 
some on one side and some on the other, every ani- 
mosity buried in the comradeship of the border. All 
were native bom, except four, and one of these four, 
a young Irishman named Martin Burke who had 
served with the British army in India, soon attracted 
Bob's attention, showing all the proverbial wit and 
gayety of the Irishman. At least a half dozen of 
the men were graduates of Eastern colleges, bearing 
their share in the dangerous work of the border. 

The second in command was Lieutenant Fred 
Beecher, nephew of the famous minister, and, 
although but a young man, already a veteran. He 
had received a bullet through the knee at Gettysburg 
and he walked lame the rest of his days, which were 
not long now. By the side of Lieutenant Beecher 
rode First Sergeant William McCall, a man who had 
risen to the rank of general in the Civil War, had 
passed out of the army, when the great volunteer 



240 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

force was disbanded, and who now reappeared upon 
the plains in this humble rank^ but faithful and 
devoted. 

There were others with whom Bob was soon to 
become well acquainted. Louis and Hudson Farley, 
father and son, serving together, and considered the 
best shots on the plains, Mooers, the surgeon, and 
more. 

Every man carried a repeating rifle, with six shots 
in the magazine and one in the barrel, a large revol- 
ver, 140 rounds of ammunition for the rifle, 30 for 
the revolver, and a large, strong hunter *s knife. 
Every one had rations for seven days, already 
cooked, in his haversack. Four pack mules, bore 
picks, shovels, camp-kettles, four thousand rounds of 
ammunition, medical supplies, salt and coffee. 

It was a gallant band. None finer could have been 
found anywhere, and, since Bob could not be with 
his own comrades, he was glad to be with these. 
The air rushed swiftly past as they rode onward and 
the tide of life rose high. He was by the side of 
Stillwell, who was scarcely older than himself, and 
the two were already fast friends. Martin Burke, 
a yard away, hummed Irish tunes under his breathi 
and the two Farleys, father and son, rode knee to 
knee. 

*'This is something like it, isn't it Bobf said 
Jack Stillwell. 

**It beats riding alone, tied on the back of a 
mustang, '* said Bob with so much sincerity, that 
Jack laughed. 

** That's behind you,'' said the young scont, "but 



Assm 



THE ISLAND IN THE KIVEE 241 

we may have something that will keep ns jmnping, 
before ns. Colonel Forsyth is not the man to tnm 
back/' 

"No, I think not/' said Bob, looking at the com- 
pact active figure of the leader, swinging easily in 
the saddle. 

Bob soon became as much interested as his com- 
rades in the quest, and he, too, scanned the brown 
soil for signs of a trail. He tried, also, but without 
success, to remember the direction in which he had 
come, examining every swell in the hope that he 
might remember some familiar sign. But it was too 
much like a dream, and a sleep without a dream for 
him to pick out landmarks from -such obscurity. 

**You're sure that none of it comes back to youf 
said Colonel Forsyth. 

**I wish I could bring it back," replied Bob, **but 
I can't. I'd know that village if I saw it, but 
whether it's north, east, south or west from here is 
more than I can tell." 

Colonel Forsyth did not upbraid him because he 
could not answer. Instead, he regarded the boy 
more than once with sympathy. The conmiander, 
as Bob noticed, seemed to be regarded with great 
affection by his men. 

The day was brilliant, and as it was the middle of 
September, there was a breath of coolness in the 
air. Bob drew deep breaths, and his happiness 
increased. He was naturally optimistic. He had 
been through so much, and he had been harried so 
much that it was like heaven to be free again, with 
fifty brave white men around him. He did not fear 

16 



242 HORSEMEN OF THE PtAINS 

the whole Cheyenne nation now, and he had a firm 
belief, too, that Sam Strong and the others were 
somewhere in advance. The three scouts now led, 
Colonel Forsyth was just behind, with Bob by his 
side, and, after them, came the cavalrymen in a dose 
group. The scouts suddenly reined in their horses, 
and the others automatically did the same. 

**What is it, Sharp f'^ asked Colonel Forsyth 
eagerly. 

* * See, sir, * * said Sharp, pointing to the ground. 

Bob looked down too, and there, imprinted across 
the plain was the broad trail of many unshod horse- 
men. The boy^s heart throbbed when he saw it, and 
so did that of every man in the company. 

In that expanse, vast and silent save for them- 
selves, the trail was like a living thing. There it 
was, standing out on the brown soil, wide, vivid, 
and full of significance. It told Bob in words that 
must be understood that here the Cheyennes had 
passed, many warriors, hundreds and hundreds, 
hunters of men, with the fierce war chiefs, Boman 
Nose and Black Kettle at their head. This was the 
tale the trail told. 

Colonel Forsyth examined it long and carefully, 
and his face was at once eager and anxious. He 
looked from the trail to his men, and he counted to 
himself the fearful odds. The trail led on before, 
but it was so wide that one had to go aside to see its 
farther edge. The Commander rode a little apart, 
and beckoned to Grover and StiUwell, 

**How many warrirors would you say have passed 
heret" he asked. 



V, 
■ l' ''( 



THE ISLAND IN THE EIVEB 243 

"I reckon that countin' people of all kinds, about 
fonr thousand people have rid on this trail," replied 
Grover, "an', figurin' on the usual basis, that means 
about fifteen hundred warriors. What do you say, 
Jackt'' 

** That's about as near it as human calculation can 
come,*' replied young Stillwell, with emphasis. 

**And we are only fifty,'' said Forsyth. **Well, 
General Sheridan sent us out to find the Cheyennes, 
and whether we're fifty or five thousand, we must 
find them. Isn't that so, boys!" 

**It's so," replied the two scouts together. 

"Do you think the men understand itt" asked 
Colonel Forsyth. 

"Every one of them," replied Grover. "They 
read this trail like print. ' ' 

"And they are not afraid," said Forsyth, looking 
at his troops with pride. He turned his horse 
and faced the little band, which drew up in a com- 
pact body, and saluted. Bob instinctively drew his 
mustang back until he rode in the first line. He now 
felt himself a member of this little force, as he had 
felt himself a member of Sam Strong's party, and 
he was accepted as such. 

Colonel Forsyth raised his hand, and there was 
complete silence, save for the heavy breathing of 
the men« 

"My lads," said the oflficer, in a firm, clear voice, 
* * every one of you has seen this trail and every one 
of you knows what it means. Pretty nearly the 
whole of the Cheyenne nation has passed here, and 
fheir fighting men, if they should turn on us, would 



244 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

outnuinber us twenty to one. But we follow I Do 
you understand that? What I wish to know is, do 
you follow with willing hearts f ' ' 

Fifty throats roared out, **We do I*' and Bob 
shouted with them. He was carried away by excite- 
ment, and its impulse. He was as ready as any of 
them to gallop forward against twenty or thirty to 
one, or, if need be, against fifty to one. 

**That is all, my lads,'* siaid the Colonel quietly. 
** Sharp, you and Jack and Pete lead on.'* 

The three guides started up the trail at a trot, and 
the men, still in a close group, followed them, all 
looking closely as they rode to saddle and girth, 
rifle and pistol. The blindest novice could not mis- 
take the trail. It stretched on, broad, obvious and 
menacing, mile after mile. 

Moreover, other signs soon multiplied. Now they 
saw an abandoned tent pole lying by the trail, and 
then another. Farther on were fragments of buf- 
falo meat, pieces of clothing, old moccasins, feathers 
from war-bonnets and other fragments, such as an 
army might leave behind on its march. It was 
evident that the Cheyennes were not seeking to hide 
their trail. **It looks as if they were defying all the 
white forces, doesn't itf said Stillwell to Bob, who 
had dropped back by his side again. 

"Yes, they're telling us to come on if we dare,*' 
said Bob. 

**The Colonel dares," said Stillwell tersely and 
Bob felt a certain pride in it. He could see, too, a 
visible increase in his own importance and Pete and 
Jack accepted him as comrade. 



THE ISLAND EST THE RIVER 245 

The afternoon waxed and waned, and there was 
the traU yet before them, as broad, and as menacing 
as ever. It was impossible to tell how old it was, 
but the guides surmised that the Indians had a lead 
of ten or twelve hours. Sunset was at hand, and, to 
the great vexation of Colonel Forsyth, mists and 
vapors from the southwest promised a dark night. 
The promise was soon fulfiled, and in another hour 
they could not see fifty yards ahead of them. 

It was impossible to continue the pursuit until 
morning, and they went into camp, if blankets and 
the bare prairie can be called a camp. But Bob did 
not think it so bad. He had the companionship of 
the men, and they found enough bujffalo chips for a 
fire, over which they cooked bacon and made coffee. 

The food and drink heartened them wonderfully 
and, although they put out the fire as soon as the 
cooking was over, the effect of its warmth lingered. 
Grover, Trudeau and Stillwell were off on the plain, 
scouting in the darkness. Bob would have gone 
with them, but Colonel Forsyth detained him, in 
order to ask further details about the Cheyennes. 
The younger officers also were allowed to sit by and 
listen. 

Bob recounted again all that he had seen in the 
Cheyenne village, and he dwelt much on the figure 
of Boman Nose. 

**A great chief,'' said Colonel Forsyth, **a 
dangerous and a worthy enemy. And the crafty 
Black Kettle is not much inferior to him. You have 
met him face to face, and maybe we will have the 
chance too.'' 



246 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

The scouts came back, after a while, and reported 
that nothing could be found on the prairie. There 
was no danger of a night attack, and the men could 
sleep easily until the morning. 

Colonel Forsyth uttered a sigh of satisfaction. 
He knew the value of peace of mind and a night's 
rest. He put a friendly hand on Bob's shoulder 
and said: 

**Go to sleep as soon as you can, my boy, because 
we march early in the morning.'' * 

Bob drew his blanket closely about his body, pil- 
lowed his head upon the haversack which had been 
given to him as part of his outfit, and closed Ms 
eyes. Weariness had come back upon him. Some 
of the effects of the wild ride, bound upon the back 
of the mustang lingered, and he began to wish again 
for absolute rest. 

He felt now, for the first time in days, the complete 
luxury of peace, the peace of both the body and the 
mind that rebuilds. Within this ring of brave men 
he took no thought of the Cheyennes, and the gentle 
wind that blew over the plains was as soothing as 
the sound of faint and distant music. He heard the 
tread of a horse now and then, the rustle of a 
trooper, seeking a better position for his body, and 
then he heard nothing. He was sound asleep and 
he did not wake again until the dear note of fhe 
bugle called to him to rise. 

Food and coffee were served, and then fhe fifty 
remounted. Among all the horses there was none 
more tractable than the mustang. Bob raised him- 
self in his stirrups, and searched the rolling plain 



■ jsitiji^ 



THE ISLAND IN THE RIVER 247 

with his strong, young eyes. He cotdd see nothing. 
It was as bare as it had been the day before. Young 
Stillwell rode up by his side. 

**You don't see anything, Bob/' said Stillwell, 
"but that don't mean that you won't see anything. 
I'm thinking that the trail will grow pretty hot 
before the day is over." 

"If it means a fight I hope to do my share,*' said 
Bob. "I've been in battle with the Cheyennes 
already." 

"I've fired a lot of good metal at 'em," said Still- 
well, "and they've fired a lot at me, but it's all in the 
job. Come on, Bob." 

Bob spoke to his mustang, and the powerful horse 
leaped forward, his compact, muscular body taut like 
steel wire, and his spirit alight. Bob shared his 
eagerness. A second night's rest had driven away 
the last traces of his collapse and he was ready for 
anything. Jack Stillwell glanced at him approv- 
ingly. 

The trail seemed broader than ever. It looked 
almost as if a buffalo herd had passed that way and 
Grover announced presently that two other parties 
had joined the great band. 

"Never mind," said Colonel Forsyth, "we still 
follow." 

He shut his lips tightly together and rode directly 
behind Bob and the three scouts, and, behind him, 
the troop rode as one, every man knowing to what 
he was riding, and no man flinching. 

The trail veered after a while and once more they 
saw the Arickaree. Then it ran on for hours by the 



248 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

side of the river. They halted a little after noon, 
for a short rest and to water the horses, and when 
they resumed the pursuit Grover said to the com- 
mander that he did not think they would overtake 
the Cheyennes that day. 

**They are movin' pretty fast/' he said, "an* 
while the trail is growin* warmer it won't be warm 
enough by nightfall.'' 

The hot sun began to cool, the afternoon passed 
its zenith, but the band rode on, now in silence. The 
trail wound along the south bank of the Arickaree, 
forty or fifty yards from the stream, among thickets 
of alder, willow and wild plum. Just as they had 
passed one of the densest parts of these thickets, the 
river made a bend, and, as they rode through a nar- 
row gorge, they saw a pleasant valley, two miles 
wide, and a little longer, well grown in grass. On 
the south side, the land made a gentle incline down 
to the Arickaree. But on the north it stretched 
away in a level expanse for nearly a mile, the valley 
there ending abruptly against a Hne of bluffs, about 
fifty feet high. 

Colonel Forsyth gave a signal, and the whole troop 
stopped, looking into the valley. He was troubled. 
He feared that he was going to face very great odds, 
and he was worried, too, by the scarcity of his pro- 
visions. Except the food in the haversacks every- 
thing was gone save a small quantity of coffee and 
salt. The horses had depended on grass, and the 
valley before him was full of it. Perhaps it would 
be best to camp here. 

As he looked, his eyes fell upon an island in the 



^ 



THE ISLAND IN THE RIVEE 249 

middle of the stream^ a peculiar little island, about 
a hundred yards long, and perhaps half as wide. 
It had been formed of sand, accumulating around 
a gravelly rift at its head. It was seventy or eighty 
yards from the shore on either side, but at this time 
of the year, most of the distance was sand. The 
water in either channel was not more than fifteen 
or twenty feet wide, and about half a foot deep. 

Long sage grass covered the head of the island, 
in the center grew a thicket of alders and willows to 
the height of about five feet, and at the foot stood a 
lone, young cottonwood. The ColonePs eyes wan- 
dered away from the island and then he gave the 
command to ride into the valley and camp. Bob 
thought the Colonel was going to have them camp 
on the island, but instead he chose a place opposite 
it on the mainland. 

The Colonel himself saw to the making of the 
camp and the posting of the sentries. Every man 
was directed to hobble his horse, and to see that his 
lariat was knotted right. He was ordered also to 
drive his picket pin firmly into the ground, and 
before lying down for the night he must see that it 
was still right. He also gave detailed instructions 
in case of surprise. Every man was to seize his 
horse's lariat with one hand and his rifle with the 
other. He was then to stand by his horse to prevent 
a stampede, a thing greatly to be feared in their 
situation. 

Bob, after he had tethered the mustang, walked to 
the edge of the river and looked at the island. The 
sun had set but some of its last red rays lingered 



250 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

over the island tinting its sand and the alders and 
the willows and the lone young cottonwood as if 
with blood. A chill wind blew out of the west, and 
the water in the river looked dark and cold. A 
strange shiver, a premonition, as it were, of an 
event tremendous, ran through every nerve and vein 
of Bob's being, and he knew that it was the island, 
or something about it, something mysterious and 
uncanny. He looked so long at it that he seemed to 
see an ashy vapor rising from its sands, and, angry 
at himself, he dashed his hands before his eyes to 
drive it away. 

''What's the matter, Bob?'' asked Stillwell, who 
had seen the gesture. 

''Nothing, at least not anything real. That island 
there was putting a spell on me, and I was seeing 
all sorts of things." 

"I don't see anything but a spit of sand." 

"And I don't now, either." 

"Well, you'd better get to sleep." 

' ' I want to stand my share of the watch. ' ' 

"You don't have any share. The Colonel says 
that a fellow who has ridden a horse barebacked, 
and at a gallop, two or three hundred miles without 
stopping, can't play sentinel, for at least a week 
afterward." 

Bob was forced to acquiesce, and again wrapped 
in his blanket he sought sleep on the bare ground* 
It came quickly enough, but it was not so sound this 
second night. He awoke at some unknown houTy 
though the moon was shining, and, sitting up, looked 
over the camp. About him were the motionless 



.^ 



THE ISLAND IN THE RIVER 251 

figures of the men, deep in slnmber. Further away 
were the figures of horses, and beyond them, the sen- 
tinels, with ready rifles, watching every point of the 
horizon. 

But Bob's eyes came back to one point, drawn 
there by a sort of hypnotic spell. It was the island, 
the reach of sand, upon which the moon was shining. 
But the sand, instead of turning to silver in the 
moonlight, turned to ashen-gray. It was a cold 
and forbidding expanse and half -awake, half-asleep. 
Bob felt, for the second time, the premonition of 
something tremendous. But he shut his eyes and 
resolutely sought sleep again. 

When he awoke it was only faint dawn, just three 
fingers of pale gray in the east, but he felt that he 
had sleep enough and he sat up, letting his blanket 
drop from him. He saw an erect figure just beyond 
the last row of figures and he recognized Colonel 
Forsyth. The leader of the little band was on 
guard. Beyond him stood another man, the young 
scout. Jack Stillwell. 

It was Bob's first intention to join them, but he 
refrained. They might not want him. He sat a 
little longer, and the slim strip of gray in the east 
broadened to a band. The band turned from gray 
to silver and from silver to an edge of flaming red, 
the first herald of the sun. Bob was still looking 
at the Colonel and the scout, and he saw both of 
them make a sudden movement, as if they had seen 
something unusual. They were staring at the crest 
of a low hill that lay some distance beyond the camp. 

Bob, acting partly on impulse and partly on Sam 



252 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

Strong's training, leaned backward and put his ear 
to the earth. He heard distinctly a soft, regular 
sound and he knew it. It was the beat of horses' 
feet. He sprang erect, with a single motion, and 
he saw Stillwell bring his rifle forward with his 
finger on the trigger. Bob sprang to the Colonel's 
side, and then, although erect, he could hear the soft 
thud of hoofs. He knew that the Colonel heard it 
too, as he held in his hand his drawn revolver. 

The dash of scarlet in the east turned to a blaze. 
Suddenly above the crest of the hill appeared the 
tips of waving eagle feathers, and then several 
mounted Cheyennes, phantom-like and gigantic 
against the first sunrise. He knew that they were 
the famous Dog Soldiers, and he knew too, that 
others must be near. Stillwell fired instantly at one 
of the warriors and sprang back shouting the alarm. 

**Up, menl Upl The Cheyennes have comel" 
cried Colonel Forsyth, and instantly the fifty men 
were upon their feet, rifles in hand, the frightened 
horses liold firmly by the lariats. 

The mounted Indians appeared upon the brow of 
the hill, and the whole band galloped straight toward 
the group of white men, their robust bodies glistening 
in the morning light, and the long feathers in their 
hair streaming out defiantly. Some of them carried 
shields of buffalo hide, upon which they beat with a 
loud, rolling sound like that of drums. 

** Steady, menl Steady I'' said Colonel Forsyfh. 
His men raised their rifles, and Bob, who waa just 
in front, raised his also, but the Cheyennes suddenly 
veered, and charged around the flank of the whiter 



."• 



THE ISLAND IN THE RIVER 253 

shouting the war-whoop with all the strength of 
their voices. 

**Look outl'^ cried Tmdeau, **they^re trying to 
stampede our horses I ' ' 

The Cheyennes, bending low in their saddles, 
rnshed the horses and pack-mules gathered behind 
the camp, intending to sweep them all away, and 
leave the little command on foot and practically 
helpless. But the soldiers ran forward and fired 
upon them rapidly. Grover, Tmdeau and Stillwell, 
reckless of the return fire from the Indians, dashed 
forward to save the pack-mules and Bob followed 
them. A Cheyenne fired at him from under his 
pony's neck and missed. Bob did not fire back, 
because his hands were now occupied with his own 
struggling horse. 

Then one of the Cheyennes uttered a short, sharp 
shout, and the band, turning about, galloped away 
at top speed. They had not created a stampede, but 
they carried with them two of the pack-mules loaded 
with stores and two horses that had not been 
picketed properly. Young Stillwell fired again at 
them, as they rode away, and a feathered warrior, 
throwing up his hands dropped backward from his 
pony to the plain where he lay still. There were 
other scattering shots, but the rest of the band gal- 
loped out of range with their prizes. Some of the 
soldiers started to follow, but the Colonel ordered 
all to saddle and bridle their horses instantly, and 
stand fast. 

The swift charge and the swift retreat passed in 
a minute or two, while the daylight was still showing 



254 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

in the east, and had not yet appeared in the west 
Bob was almost dazed by its rapidity. He stood, 
holding the bridle of the mustang, while a little dond 
of dnst, kicked up by the hoofs of the ponies, drifted 
over them. 

He looked through the dust as through a mist, and 
an army of red horsemen seemed to rise out of the 
plain. The line stretched far to right and to left, 
and every man was bent forward a little over his 
horse ^s neck, like those who ride to the charge. The 
boy^s heart gave a great jump, and then every 
nerve tingled and throbbed. The first band had 
been mere raiders. This was the Cheyenne army. 

**Look! Look!'* cried Grover, standing beside 
his commander. "All the Cheyennes have come!" 

It was true. The great Cheyenne force had turned 
upon its own trail, and now it approached the Uttle 
white band from all sides. Besides the horsCTieii 
in front, other Indians, some on foot and some 
mounted, were pressing forward along either bank 
of the river. Just in front of the red line, where 
the Indians were massed, a gigantic man sat on a 
great mustang. This man's appearance was fero- 
cious and impressive to the last degree. Feathers 
and plumes, woven into a great gorgeous braid, 
swung from his hair. His face was covered with 
war-paint, red and black in many designs, even to 
the nose, which was large and curved. The head 
was crowned with the war-bonnet, a magnificent 
ornament of large colored feathers, with two 
short, black buffalo horns projecting from it, at 
the temples. He was naked save for his moccadiifl 



THE ISLAND IN THE RIVER 255 

and a broad scarf of blood-red abont the waist. 

The man sat perfectly still on his horse, and 
regarded the group of white men with a gaze that 
expressed hatred and triumph. He was like one 
who had long sought a foe, and who now held him 
in the hollow of his hand. Bob thought that he had 
never seen anything more impressive than this 
startling apparition. But he knew the man. 

** Roman Nose I ^' he cried. 

Every white eye was instantly turned upon the 
chief, but he yet sat motionless, gazing upon them 
with that look of malignant triumph, the certainty 
of victory to come. 



CHAPTEE XVn 

LITTLE THERMOPYLAE 

Bob saw the great chief raise his hand, and then 
a wild cry burst from a thousand throats, a savage 
cry, so instinct with hatred, ferocity and triumph, 
that every man shuddered. Then the whole Indian 
army swept forward, horse and foot, more than 
twenty to one. 

Bob felt himself recoiling as if an irresistible mass 
were rushing down upon him, but in a moment he 
checked himself. The white men stood now in a 
circle with their horses behind them in the center. 
But the deadly muzzles of their rifles faced in every 
direction. Bob was between Trudeau and Stillwell 
and Colonel Forsyth was only a few yards away. 
The boy, although he stood motionless, was tre- 
mendously excited. The little pulses in his temple 
were beating furiously, and the charging horde 
came on in a red mist. Nevertheless he heard amid 
all the fierce yelling from hundreds of throats the 
low "steady! steady!" of the commander, an insist- 
ent undemote. AH the time, the rising sun was 
pouring a flood of golden beams down upon this wild 
scene of the Western plains. 

Nearer came the red horsemen and the thousands 
of hoofs beat like thunder. It looked to Bob as if 
they must all be trodden under foot. He saw 
through the clouds of dust, always tinted red, fhe 

256 



,|^ 



LITTLE THERMOPYLAE 257 

wild faces of the warriors, their curved noses, and 
their white teeth, from which their thin, red lips 
were drawn back. He looked for Eoman Nose. He 
did not see him, bnt he chose another, a large war- 
rior who also wore a magnificent war-bonnet and 
who was in the very front of the charging red line. 
The trigger of his rifle fairly burned against his 
finger, but Colonel Forsyth had not yet given the 
command to fire, and he dared not pull it. Nearer 
they came, and it seemed that in another minute the 
Indians would be upon the troopers. Then the 
Colonel shouted: **Fire!** the single sharp word 
rising above the roar like the crack of a pistol-shot. 

Fifty eager fingers pulled trigger at once. The 
little circle of men was rimmed around with fire, 
and a cloud of smoke at once arose. But it was a 
deadly circle. From every point it emitted singing 
metal, as the men loaded and fired as fast as they 
could. Their bullets crashed into the masses of 
charging Cheyennes. Ponies and riders went down. 
Warriors fell as if smitten with a thunderbolt. 
Horses, screaming with pain, galloped about the 
plain. Dust and smoke mingled, and heavy with 
odors and vapors, floated over them all. 

Bob aimed directly at the big warrior with the 
eagle beak, when he pulled the trigger. When the 
rifle flashed he saw the warrior no more. After 
that he fired at whatever was nearest. The little 
pulses in his head were beating more furiously than 
ever, and he was scarcely conscious of what he was 
doing, but he did not flinch. He remembered after- 
ward that he could still feel Trudeau at his right 

17 



258 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

I 
I 
I 

and Stillwell at his left, while the commander stood 
as before only a few yards away. 

The crash of the rifles was so steady now that it 
was like the roll of thunder. Mingled with it, the 
nnbroken yelling of the Indians and the dram of 
hoofs beat upon the boy's ears, with such regularity 
that he became unconscious of sound at all. The 
troopers seldom shouted, but aiming low, sent their 
bullets straight to the mark. Bob saw the head of 
a pony almost in his face. He fired at it and the 
pony fell. Other ponies appeared through the 
clouds of dust and smoke but they too went down, 
and no wild horseman broke through the white ring. 

Bullets struck in the ring also. Men Were wounded 
but they hid it for the time, and kept their places in 
the defense. Bob felt something hot searing his 
side, but he knew that he was merely grazed and he 
forgot it the next moment. Then he became con- 
scious of the great shouting and firing, but it was 
because both were decreasing and becoming irreg- 
ular. The clouds of smoke and dust lifted, and 
showed the Cheyennes in retreat, the ground between 
the foes sprinkled with dead horses and fallen war- 
riors. 

The little band of fifty — ^though not fifty now — 
uttered a great shout of exultation. That invindhle 
front of fire had beaten off the entire Cheyenne 
army — for an instant. The Cheyennes were sul- 
lenly withdrawing out of rifle range, but Colonel 
Forsyth knew well enough that the attack would 
soon come again, and that they could not beat it back 
a second time^ standing thiere in the open plain. Bib 



.». r 



LITTLE THERMOPYLAE 259 

quick mind was at work and it was working welL 
He glanced toward the island, and he saw that the 
water would form a defense against a charge, or at 
least help. 

**Come, my boys,*' he said, **we will fight from 
the island. Move toward it, as fast as you can, but 
do not break your ring. * ' 

The firing and the shouting had ceased, and in the 
silence his voice was like thunder to Bob. Then he 
heard Trudeau murmuring under his breath: "A 
good move ; it 's our only chance. ^ ' 

The ring, as even and orderly as a Macedonian 
phalanx, protected by the fire of their best marks- 
men, went swiftly toward the river, the frightened 
horses dragged with them by the lariats, the men 
carrying also their wounded and their dead. It was 
a perfect movement, which only the bravest of vet- 
erans could have executed at such a terrible moment. 
In an instant they had reached the shallow water, in 
another they were in it, and in a third they were on 
the sandy island. 

The Cheyennes, when they saw the retreat, rushed 
forward and began to fire again from every point of 
vantage. They leaped from their horses, and took 
advantage of every inequality in the earth. They 
swarmed among the reeds and willows on either side 
of the river bed, and poured in a storm of bullets. 
More men were wounded. Several horses were 
killed and fell into the water, while the others were 
so terrified that it took half the time and strength 
of the men to hold them. 

But the troopers were upon the island and Forsyth 



260 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

shouted to them to dig, dig for their lives. Bob 
understood when his heels sank in the soft sand. 
Half the men were at work already, while the other 
half, forming a ring about them, were returning the 
Indian fire. 

The men were scooping up the sand, some with 
their hands, some with empty tin cans from the mess, 
but most with their hunting knives. Bob took out 
his own knife and he and Stillwell began to dig a 
hole. 

**It will be a good place for us, dead or alive,'' 
said young Stillwell with grim humor. 

Bob dug furiously and threw up the soft sand in 
a shower, while Stillwell arranged it all around the 
hole in the form of a breastwork. The sand seemed 
to go down to an unlimited depth, and it was so soft 
that the hole sank fast. Bob could not tell anything 
about time, but eight or ten minutes must have 
passed, when Stillwell shouted to him: 

"Up with your rifle. Bob, the Cheyennes are about 
to charge again!'' 

All the men threw down the tools with which they 
had been digging and seized their weapons. Some 
of the horses had been tethered, but in the hurry the 
others were left to shift for themselves. But many 
holes had been dug, and many mounds of sand had 
been thrown up. The island, with its band of water 
on either side, and its sand protection, was a differ- 
ent place from the open plain. Stillwell sprang 
down by the side of Bob in the hole that they had 
dug, and the two on their knees were sheltered 
almost completely. 






LITTLE THERMOPYLAE 261 

"Let 'em come, Bob, my boy,'* said Stillwell, the 
fire of battle flaming in his veins. 

"Yes, let 'em come," said Bob, peering down the 
sights of his rifle, the barrel of which lay on the wall 
of sand. 

The Cheyennes needed no invitation. They were 
coming fast enough, and from every side they 
swarmed toward the island, continuously shouting 
the war-whoop, and firing their rifles as they 
charged. The skirmishers in the beds of reeds also 
pressed closer and these were now the most danger- 
ous. Picked sharpshooters, they sent the sand flying 
in little puflfs. One puflf struck Bob in the face, and 
it stung like small shot. He and Stillwell turned 
their attention to these wasps and their bullets sang 
among the reeds. 

But the majority of the troopers, at the command 
of Colonel Forsyth, fired at the charging hordes of 
horsemen, and sheltered by their mounds and 
ridges of sand, they were able to break the lines, 
shooting down warriors and ponies alike. Now a 
great crowd of Indian women and children appeared 
on the bluffs, at the back of the valley, and added 
their shouts to the uproar. 

The Indians charged to the very edge of the water, 
but they paused there in the face of the withering 
fire from the island, and then breaking, retreated 
rapidly out of rifle range, followed by the derisive 
cheering of the island's defenders. 

"Twice we've licked 'em," exclaimed Jack Still- 
well, joyfully, * * but they '11 come again. Hurt, Bob T ' ' 

"Not touched," replied the boy, "but I'm hot, 



262 HORSEMKN OF THE PLAINS 

and my heart has been pounding like a drum. Good 
Heavens! What's thatt" 

A wild scream of pain, more terrible than a man 
could utter, made them both jump. It came from a 
wounded horse, and presently two more joined in 
his shuddering cry. Several had torn loose and 
were running up and down the island. Others, 
mortally wounded had broken away, only to fall 
dead beyond the stream, and while the main attack 
had been repulsed, the skirmishers among the reeds 
turned their aim from the defenders to the horses 
which could not be protected from their bullets. 

'*It^s all up with them,^' said StillweU. **We 
can't save 'em. Our good horses have to go.'* 

The rifles cracked fast among the reeds and horse 
after horse was struck. 

**Turn them loose I'* commanded the Colonel, and 
the men quickly obeyed, first securing their food and 
extra ammunition. Even then many of the horses 
were shot down as they galloped across the Arick- 
aree. Bob approaching his mustang, and careless 
of a chance shot, took him by the mane. 

The boy's heart was full of sadness. He had a 
genuine affection for this horse which had saved him, 
but he knew now that he must let him go, or see him 
slain almost at his feet. The mustang thrust out 
his head, and muzzled his hand. Bob's heart was 
rent again, but it was no time for waiting. A bullet 
struck in the sand at his feet. Another grazed his 
buckskin coat. 

** Farewell, good horse!" he exclaimed. **Now 
go!" 



..itu 



LITTLE THERMOPYLAE 263 

He struck the mustang smartly on the side with 
his rifle-barrel, at the same moment slipping off the 
bridle. The horse galloped down the island, looked 
a few moments at the water, crossed it with a few 
bounds, and then stood upon the open plain. 

Several of the withdrawing warriors fired at the 
mustang, but their bullets merely knocked up the 
dust about him. He stopped, and looked scornfully 
at them. Two more shots were fired at him, and 
then he broke into a run across the plain, which was 
encircled by the Indian line. 

Bob jumped back into the pit with Stillwell and 
the two watched the mustang, whose fortunes had 
assumed a wholly human interest for them. The 
splendid beast galloped on toward the Indian line. 

*' They '11 kill him,'' said Bob. 

* ' Since they missed him first, it 's more likely that 
they'll try to catch him now," said Stillwell. 
** They '11 see that he's worth having." 

Three or four of the best mounted Cheyennes 
galloped forward, and threw their lariats. But 
the rope missed his head every time, and slipped 
along his smooth side to fall fruitlessly on the 
ground. 

* * Good horse I good horse I ' ' repeated Bob. * * They 
haven't got him yet." 

The mustang went straight on, tore through the 
Indian line, the lariats whistling about him in vain, 
and then galloped at full speed toward the bluffs, 
the disappointed Cheyennes firing at him two or 
three shots that fell short. Presently he reached a 
crest out of range, looked back a moment, shook his 



264 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

long mane, and then with a final burst of speed, dis- 
appeared over the hill. 

Bob laughed aloud in his pleasure. 

''They could neither take nor kill him!" he 
exclaimed. ''I was fond of that mustang, Jack. I 
ought to have been, as he saved my life." 

''He may have been a wild horse once, and it's 
likely that he'll become one again," said StillwelL 
"He's fit to be the head of a great herd." 

"I hope so," said Bob, "and since he's got away, 
we'll take it as a good omen, and reckon it as a sure 
thing that we're going to get away too." 

"Eight enough," said Jack cheerfully. "Of 
course we'll get away. There ain't more than a 
million Cheyennes around us, but with our sand pits 
here, we could beat 'em off if they were two millions. 
Listen to that. Bob! We haven't been shooting for 
s^ . nothing. ' ' 

' From the bluffs back of the battlefield came a 

long, high-pitched wailing sound. It was the women 
and children mourning the dead warriors, most of 
whom had been carried away by their comrades and 
their horses. It was inexpressibly sad to Bob, and 
for the moment he felt sympathy for the Cheyennes. 

"Fighting is hot business in more ways than one," 
said Stillwell, and one of the hot things that it does 
to you is to get up a thirst. The Arickaree is a cool, 
clear stream, and I'm bound to have some of it, right 
away." 

"Don't you try it," said Bob. "It's too danger- 
ous. Those fellows in the reeds would pick you off 
when you bent down for the water." 



■*!!. tA 



LITTLE THERMOPYi 265 

**I don't intend to do any bending down,'! said 
Stillwell. **I'm going by nndergronnd, and you're 
going to help me." 

All the men during the lull in the fighting were 
busily scooping their burrows deeper, and Stillwell, 
xising a broad tin plate, set to work digging a shal- 
low trench toward the river, which was only a few 
feet away. He lay almost on his side, and made the 
sand fly fast. Bob helped him with his hunting 
knife, and as they pulled forward eight or ten feet 
in the trench, the sand grew damp. Then the cool 
water oozed up and thf^ *t7o drank greedily, one from 
a can and the other from the plate. It was like 
nectar to their parched lips and throat, and they did 
not neglect to take a plentiful supply back to their 
comrades. 

^^ Lucky thing for us," said Stillwell, **that we've 
been cooped up with a river full of good water all 
about us. We're likely to need it in our business 
before this thing is over. Look, there's Boman 
Nose!" 

The great chief had ridden again to the brow of 
the low hill, and just out of rifle range, sat there 
looking down at the devoted band on the island, the 
blazing sun showing every bright feather in his 
magnificent war-bonnet. 

**He's planning," said Stillwell, **as sure as 
shooting. I'll bet that he's as mad as a hornet, 
through and through, because we got upon this 
island, but he expects to get us out of it, all the same. 
Now I wonder what's turning in that cunning Indian 
brain of hist" 



266 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

Colonel Forsyth was also wondering. He lay in 
a sand burrow by the side of his surgeon, Dr. Mooers, 
and closely watched his formidable antagonist. The 
dust had settled back to earth, the smoke had lifted, 
and everything could be seen clearly. The com- 
mander felt in his heart that an attack more deter- 
mined and savage than either of the others was 
about to be made. He feared, too, that it would be 
accompanied by more craft, and he looked sorrow- 
fully at his little band. The wounds were numerous, 
and several men lay dead in the sand. But there 
was no thought of surrender in his mind. Little 
mercy could be expected from the Cheyennes, and he 
would not have asked it, even had there been a 
chance. He and his band were resolved to die there, 
to the last man if need be. 

**Look well to your rifles, boys,^' he said, **and see 
that all the cartridges are in. ' * 

Their rifles were the best of the time, and they 
knew that their lives depended upon them. Bob 
counted the cartridges in his to see that all were in 
place, and also surveyed the pistol in his holster. 
The water had refreshed him greatly, and StiUwell 
gave him a strip of bacon to chew. 

**You may not be able to taste it at all," he said, 
**but it will hearten you up and give you strength. 
I've saved another strip for myself.'' 

Bob followed his advice, but as the young scout 
said, he could not taste the food. Meanwhile the 
Cheyennes were gathering for a greater effort than 
ever. The chiefs assembled for council on one of 
the low bluffs within sight of the island, and their 



,m 



LITTLE THERMOPYLAE 267 

great war-bonnets glowed in the snn. Boman Nose 
was there, so was Black Kettle, and so were chiefs 
from all the clans, the Dog Soldiers, the Fox Men, 
Those-with-Headed-Lances, The Eed-Shield-Owners, 
Those-with-the-Bow-String, and even the Foolish 
Dogs. There was with them, too, a white man, a 
freebooter, no less a person than Juan Carver; but 
Eoman Nose was the great dominating personality. 
He had been successful for two years in his war with 
the whites, and he did not mean to fail, now that he 
held Forsyth in the hollow of his hand. 

Bob could distinguish Boman Nose at the distance, 
and he felt that the coming charge would be far 
more formidable than either of the others. Boman 
Nose, not sparing his own men, would hurl the Chey- 
enne army directly upon them. 

The little band finished its last preparation for 
defense. The saddles from the dead or injured 
horses were piled in rows on the mounds of sand. 
Everything that could serve as a shield against 
bullets was put in place, and then they waited. 

The sun never ceased to shine with the utmost 
brilliancy. Only tiny white clouds dotted the blue 
of the heavens. In the transparent light it seemed 
almost possible to distinguish the features of the 
women and children on the bluffs, watching them to 
see the warriors destroy the white force to the last 
man. 

The council of the chiefs was over. Bob could see 
them going away, and the Cheyenne skirmishers, 
advancing directly in their front, opened fire. It 
was not a headlong charge of horsemen now, but the 



268 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

slow and careful approach of sharpshooters who, 
lying almost flat on the plain, crawled forward and 
sent in a bullet whenever they caught sight of any 
portion of a trooper's body. The warriors, who had 
never left the cover of the reeds and willows, also 
resumed their fire, and the island, low, flat and bare, 
was swept by bullets. 

Only their burrows in the sand saved the troopers, 
and raising themselves just enough to take aim they 
returned a careful and deadly fire. It was the order 
of Colonel Forsyth that no man was to pull trigger 
until he could draw a bead on his target, and despite 
the smoke, many a bullet struck true. 

Stillwell was watching the advance intently, noting 
the white puffs of smoke on the plain wherever a 
Cheyenne fired, and he was puzzled. 

"This can't be the main attack,'' he said to Bob. 
** Their riflemen may cut us up a lot, but I don't 
believe they mean to rush us in front. Look at that I 
Some of those fellows in the reeds have reached the 
end of the island. Keep close. Bob! Keep close 1" 

Several of the most daring of the Cheyennes had 
actually crawled through the reeds and water and 
effected a lodgment on the upper end of the island, 
where they hid in the sage, and from that ambush 
fired upon the troopers. 

Colonel Forsyih was lying in one of the sand pits, 
within five feet of Bob and Stillwell. He was almost 
flat upon his side, firing with the others, but low as 
he lay, the bullets from the daring warriors on the 
island began to patter around him. 

** We've got to clean those fellows out,'' said Still- 



LITTLE THERMOPYLAE 269 

well. A Cheyenne rifle flashed, and the young seont 
instantly fired at the flash. A warrior, uttering a 
cry, sprang convulsively into the air, and fell back 
out of sight. 

"One^s gone,*' said Stillwell, **but more are left, 
and I tell you. Bob, they're mighty dangerous. 
Good God, why don't the Colonel keep down I" 

Colonel Forsyth had risen and was walking 
around among his men, encouraging them, telling 
them to stand fast, that they could yet beat off the 
Indians. Bob looked at him, the only upright figure 
on the island, and saw him stagger. Bob knew that 
he was hit, and his heart sank. 

The Colonel clapped his hand to his thigh where 
the blood was already running through the cloth of 
his trousers, and then sank down again in the sandy 
trench. The shot was seen by all the men, and 
they cried out, wishing to know if he were alive. 
Although suffering acute pain, as the bullet had 
ranged upward in his right thigh, he replied cheer- 
fully that he was all right, and as the last word left 
his lips, another bullet struck his leg half way 
between knee and ankle, shattering the bone. But 
the indomitable man roused himself again and cried 
encouragement to the others. A third bullet passed 
through the crown of his felt hat, ploughed under 
the skin of his head and fractured his skull, a piece 
of the bone being taken out a month later. Surgeon 
Mooers was mortally wounded by his side. 

But this dauntless commander did not lose either 
consciousness or courage. With these terrible 
wounds he propped himself up on his elbow, called 



270 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

to his men to fight on and, taking a rifle himself, 
fired at mounted Indians, who were now approach- 
ing from the front. With such an example no 
trooper could falter. Forsyth Weeding from his 
three great wonnds, in spite of everything kept his 
faculties clear in this terrific moment, and directed 
the hattle. 

The Indian force steadily crept forward, wrap- 
ping themselves around three sides of the defenders, 
and sending in the hullets faster and faster. Man 
after man, despite the protection of the sand, was 
hit, and some were killed, usually dying without 
noise in the pits that they had dug, and the least 
exposure of an arm or a shoulder was sure to bring 
a bullet. Now the warriors redoubled their shout- 
ing, and from the bluffs a horde of women and chil- 
dren increased it with a great chorus. 

It seemed to Bob that the final charge must come 
the next moment, and he did not see how it could 
be held back. Unconsciously he resigned himself, 
and he was glad that he was not to die in the dark- 
ness and alone. 

**They^l rush upon us in a minute,'^ he said to 
Stillwell. 

*'Not so,'' replied the experienced young scout. 
"They're not going to charge us in front. You 
don't see Eoman Nose there. You don't see any of 
the big chiefs there. Now I wonder how they're 
coming at us. But they'll come sure." 

Bob slipped new cartridges into his rifle, and 
peered again through the bank of smoke and dust 
His eye swept entirely around the circle and rested 



LITTLE THERMOPYLAE 271 

upon one point from which no attack had come. 
There his gaze was fixed, and with a convnlsive 
start he straightened up in the pit. 

**Here they come now," exclaimed StillwelL 
**Look, Eoman Nose himself leads/' 

Five hundred red horsemen, Eoman Nose at their 
head, rode up the bed of the river which was very 
low. Just behind Eoman Nose were Black Kettle 
and all the chiefs, and on the flank an old medicine 
man, as brave as any of the chiefs, led. Every man 
in that wild army was stripped for battle, naked 
save for the breech-cloth, moccasins and war-bonnet. 
They held rifles and pistols in their hands, and they 
urged their horses forward with their heels. The 
sunlight, for here the air was clear of smoke and 
dust, floated down on them, and lighted up their 
features, the high cheek bones, the curved beaks, 
and the bare arms and shoulders, lean, sinewy and 
powerful. 

The great mass of red horsemen halted for a few 
moments at the mouth of the narrow gorge through 
which the force of Forsyth had come the day before, 
and then the two forces looked at each other, the 
little white band half hidden in the sand on the 
island, and the chosen Loidian warriors, more than 
ten to one. 

It was a sight that Bob saw many a time after- 
wards in his dreams, so tense, so vivid, etched so 
strongly against the background of blazing sunlight, 
that it was real again. 

There for an instant sat the gigantic figure of 
Eoman Nose on his horse, general, warrior, worthy 



272 HOBSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

leader of a savage army. He turned a single glance 
toward the women and children who stood in thou- 
sands on the low line of bluffs. Then he raised his 
right arm and waved his hand to them, like a Boman 
gladiator salutiag the multitude. When they saw 
the gesture they replied with a vast shout of joy that 
rolled in echoes up the valley and beyond. It was 
a cry so full of ferocity and the savor of triumph 
that the two youths lying together in the sandy hol- 
low could Hot keep from shuddering. 

Boman Nose turned his gaze back from the Chey- 
enne nation to the little white force on the island. 
He seemed fairly to rise upon his horse as he 
clenched one fist in the white man's fashion, and 
shook it fiercely at his foe. Then he threw back his 
head, clapped the palm of his hand across his mouth, 
and uttered the most tremendous war-cry that ever 
passed human lips. It pierced the air like a rifle- 
shot, then swelled in volume and filled the whole 
valley. Before the terrible echoes died, the deep 
note of a bugle, captured from some trooper, 
sounded above all the battle that was raging else- 
where, and with one tremendous shout the five hun- 
dred rode for the island. 

**Now, Bob,*' shouted Stillwell, "shoot as you 
never shot before I This is the real attack I" 

Bob knew already that it was the crisis, and so 
did every man among the fifty who yet lived. They 
whirled about, ignoring for a moment the sharp- 
shooters in front, and faced the charge, the indomi- 
table commander himself, who could scarcely movei 
lying against the sand and raising a revolver. 



LITTLE THERMOPYLAE 273 

A wind cleft still more the banks of smoke and 
dust, and the entire mass of horsemen was revealed, 
the sand flying in showers beneath the beating hoofs. 
By the power of will and the concentrated energy of 
the moment, Forsyth raised himself on the sand and 
gazed at the rushing host, Boman Nose still several 
paces in front. 

There was a sudden lull in the firing from the 
plains, as if the sharpshooters had risen up to see. 
The women and children on the bluffs sank into 
silence. Forsyth watched for a few minutes longer, 
and no man fired. Then he uttered the single sharp 
syllable that every one understood: 

*'NowI^' 



18 



CHAPTEB XVin 

THE CHARGE OP ROMAN NOSE 

When that single monosyllable, **Nowl'' shot 
forth, the men in the pits raised up a little and 
pnlled trigger, so close together that there was only 
a single crash. But every rifle was aimed true, and 
a hole was torn in the Indian line, men and horses 
going down together. The Cheyennes, great war- 
riors, did not falter, and the magnificent Boman 
Nose led as before. 

The dismounted Indians on the flanks resumed 
their fire, but the defenders of the island took no 
notice of them. Their eyes were never turned from 
the horsemen. They were a dauntless band, sun- 
browned, nearly all wounded, but their hands were 
steady and their eyes alight with the flame of battle. 
Forsyth lay upon his back in the sand, unable to 
move, but despite it, sending bullets from his re- 
volver. A second time they pulled the trigger and a 
third time, and always the bullets went low and to 
the mark. The air was full of whistling metaL 
Biders and horses struck down disappeared from 
the line, but others took their places, the mass closed 
up and never for an instant ceased its charge. 

*'Can we ever stop them I*' exclaimed young Still- 
well, and Bob echoed his words. The Cheyennes 
were rushing their horses now through the shallow 
water and would soon reach the island, carried on 

S7i 



*i 



THE CHARGE OP ROMAN NOSE 275 

by their own courage and the fire of their daring 
leader. On the island more men were slain by the 
rifle-fire of the Indians which now came from every 
point, and others received fresh wounds, but those 
who still lived pulled the trigger with fiercer energy. 
It was all a red whirl to the boy, a terrible medley of 
fire and sand and water and smoke, pierced by the 
mingled crash of shots and shouts. Despite his danger 
and the fierce excitement of the moment, he could 
not withhold admiration for the courage of the 
Cheyennes, and above all for the daring of their 
.leaders. 

The Cheyenne chief was still in the van. His 
powerful horse came on with great leaps, and Boman 
Nose riding without a saddle sat far forward on the 
bare back. His knees were under a horse-hair lariat, 
wound around the animal's body, and he held the 
bridle firmly in his left hand. He grasped a heavy 
repeating rifle in his right hand, and now and then he 
whirled it aloft as he galloped down upon his enemy. 
Fearless of death, no more magnificent figure was 
ever seen upon the plains. 

*'Fire at Eoman Nose !'* Bob heard Still well shout. 
He raised his rifle in obedience to the impulse, and 
then he turned his muzzle upon some one else. He 
did not know why he shifted the rifle, but he was 
always glad of it. Others were not moved by the 
same feeling. 

Eoman Nose had already reached the island, riding 
at a gallop directly down upon the rifle pits. The 
medicine man who led the flank had been killed, but 
the other chiefs were close behind him. 



276 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

*'He will ride over us!'' exclaimed Bob. 

StillwelPs only reply was to pull the trigger of the 
rifle aimed directly at the chief. Several others 
fired upon him at the same time. Boman Nose 
leaped convulsively upward and then sank back on 
his horse. The rifle dropped from his outstretched 
hand to the ground. His great body swayed, dark- 
ness quenched the flame of his eyes, and he fell to 
the ground, dead, pierced by half a dozen bullets. 

A cry of grief and rage rose from the Cheyennes 
when they saw the death of their best chief, but the 
charge did not stop. Swerving their horses to one 
side, or leaping them over his body, they rode to the 
very edge of the rifle pits, but the fire swept them 
away. More chiefs went down. Horses, riderless 
or wounded, galloped here and there and spread con- 
fusion among them. The thrice-wounded Forsyth, 
lying on the ground, never ceased to direct his men. 
The Indians were so close now that even an excited 
marksman could scarcely miss. 

The charge, one of the bravest and most dramatic 
ever made, broke on the island. The fire from the 
rifle pits was so fast and so deadly that the Indians, 
their great leader gone, gave way at last and 
galloped back, carrying with them the bodies of most 
of their fallen chiefs. A great cry of grief rose 
from the multitude beyond, and then came a lull like 
that which had preceded the charge. It was broken 
for Bob by the exultant cry of Stillwell : 

**WeVewonI We've wonl'* 

The boy was gasping. He was so much excited 
by the charge, the conflict and the tremendous pio- 



THE CHARGE OP ROMAN NOSE 277 

ture he had seen that he could not speak. He was 
conscious that the Cheyennes had been driven back, 
but he did not feel the full reality of it. His eyes, 
his ears and his throat were full of the mingled reek 
of smoke, dust, sweat and burnt gunpowder. He 
was about to choke, but at last he managed to say : 

**Have we really fought them offt'* 

**Not a doubt of it," said Stillwell, joyfully, and 
then he added with emphatic admiration, **But that 
was a great charge. I never expect to see its like 
again. If Eoman Nose hadn't be6n shot from his 
horse they might have ridden over us.*' 

*'Down, men I Down!'* suddenly cried Forsyth 
with all his energy, and the troopers obeyed just in 
time, throwing themselves flat on their faces in the 
rifle pits. The swarm of Indians on foot among the 
reeds and alders and willows swept the island from 
side to side with a rain of bullets, volleys that had 
been withheld before for fear of hitting their own 
charging horsemen. 

The fire was so fierce that the brave Lieutenant 
Beecher, despite the protection of the sand, was 
mortally wounded, and others received fresh hurts. 
But the best of the white riflemen began to pick off 
the Indians among the bushes, and gradually cleared 
out this deadly ambush. Then the shots ceased, the 
smoke lifted, and the battle stopped for a time. 

Colonel Forsyth, white from the loss of blood, 
raised himself feebly on the sand and looked around 
at his men who now crawled again from the pits. 
A faint smile of mingled triumph and pity passed 
over his face. He was victorious so far, but the cost 



278 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

was great. His own dead were too numerous. Not 
more than six or seven in the whole command were 
without serious wounds. Heroic as had been the 
charge, the defense had been more so. 

Stillwell and Bob seized the tin cans and began to 
bring water from the trench that they had made, 
giving it to the men who were hurt the worst 
Others, skilled from long experience, began to bind 
up hurts, while others brought forth fresh anunimi- 
tion and looked to the rifles and revolvers, knowing 
that there would still be full need of them. 

Two of the troopers attended to the wounds of 
Colonel Forsyth, who was now extremely weak. 
But his intelligence and energy were as great as 
ever. He could not stand on his feet, but he had 
them remove him into an easier position, and while 
they were swathing him in numerous bandages, he 
was studying the Indian position. 

Bob lay on the edge of his sand pit, gasping for 
breath, and scarcely yet understanding that it was 
all real. It had been like the passing of a terrible 
dream. Three or four Cheyenne warriors lay so 
close to him, shot dead from their horses, that he 
could have reached out and touched them with his 
rifle muzzle. Not far beyond were a dozen more, 
and for a distance of nearly half a mile, coming to 
the island and leaving it, was a broad trail of slain 
warriors and horses. Sometime^ they were strewn 
along in single file, and then ttey lay in groups. 
Once more Bob paid his silent tribute to Cheyenne 
valor. As the boy looked he saw the body of Boman 
Nose. The great chief lay flat upon his back, hin 



• *' 



THE CHAEGE OP ROMAN NOSE 279 

dead eyes staring up at the heavens, now bine again 
as the rifle smoke floated away. The splendid war- 
bonnet was still on his head, and the heavy repeating 
rifle lay by his side. He had died as he would have 
chosen, leading the fiercest charge red men ever made. 

**Will they come again f asked Colonel Forsyth 
of the oldest scout, Grover. 

The veteran shook his head. 

**Not that way," he replied. **I never saw its 
like before, an' I never expect to see it again, but 
they mean to get us yet. ' ' 

The women and children, on the bluffs, within 
plain view of the island, maintained a wailing chant 
that rose and fell, but never ceased. It was a 
mingling of sorrow and anger, inexpressibly wild 
and savage, and it got upon Bob's nerves. He 
could see the figures upon the bluffs, leaping up and 
down, and he knew that he and his comrades could 
expect no more pity from them than from the 
warriors. 

The warriors themselves were not noiseless. They 
•rode around and around the island, but out of range, 
shaking their fists, brandishing rifles and lances, and 
uttering savage cries. 

**They are telling us what they are going to do 
with us," said Still well, *'and the things are so 
pleasant I won't repeat 'em to you. Bob." 

**Let 'em shout," said Bob. "They haven't got 
us yet." 

^'That's the talk," said Stillwell. **There, they're 
drawing off! I guess they're going to have a big 
talk." 



280 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

Although the dirge of the women and children still 
rose and fell, the shouts of the warriors gradually- 
ceased, and they rode in a great body toward the 
gorge, whence they had issued for the charge. There 
they remained for a long time consulting, and the 
band on the island rested, although troubled, now 
and then, by sharpshooters. 

The troopers ate a little food, and .attended to the 
wounds of one another as best they could. They also 
threw up their banks of sand higher, but they suf- 
fered much from the sun, which poured fiery rays 
direcftly down upon their unprotected heads. It 
brought fever into their veins, but they were thank- 
ful now, for another reason, that they had been able 
to reach the island. Besides the defense that it gave 
them, plenty of good water was at hand for the tak- 
ing, and they took freely. Bob and Jack bathed 
their faces, and all the others did likewise. 

There was little sound on the island. Martin 
Burke hummed old Irish songs under his breathy 
but only the two youths heard him. In one rifle pit 
the elder Farley lay dying, and by the side of him, 
his son, hiding a severe wound of his own, held his 
hand, and listened to his last words. In the pit, 
with the triple-wounded leader, lay the dying lieu- 
tenant and the dying surgeon, one on either side. 
In every pit men eased their hurts. Upon all beat 
the pitiless sun, and great black birds began to 
wheel overhead. 

Bob rested himself against the bank of sand, 
pulled the brim of his cap down over his eyes, shaded 
as much more of his face as he could with one arm, 



THE CHAEGE OF ROMAN NOSE 281 

and remained motionless. Gradually his nerves 
sank into quiet. His eyelids drooped, although he 
had no desire to sleep. He merely sank into a 
strange sort of apathy, lulled now ty the wild and 
weird wailing from the hluffs. Stillwell also did 
not move, although he continued to watch closely 
the mass of warriors at the head of the valley. 

The sun shone in dazzling rays upon these war- 
riors, showing their war-bonnets, their rifle?, and 
their naked bodies, a savage group, stirred wholly by 
primitive emotions. A little wind sprang up, and 
blew away the last of the smoke and vapors that 
hung in the valley. Then Stillwell turned to Bob. 

**I think they're coming again,'' he said. 

The boy said nothing but raised up a little and 
pushed his rifle forward on the sand. Forsyth saw 
too, and called to all to be ready. The tremendous 
shout of the Cheyennes once more clove the air, and 
the valley thundered, as half a thousand horsemen, 
again galloped toward the island, the eagle and heron 
feathers in their war-bonnets trailing out behind 
them, their fierce brown faces bent forward over 
their horses. 

At the same instant swarms of skirmishers in the 
bushes and reeds began to fire on the flanks of the 
island, but the defenders, as before, paid no attention 
to them. Their fingers burned on the triggers, but 
they waited until Forsyth should give the word. 
He cried ^^ Fire I" long before the charge reached 
the island, and, once more, the hail of metal beat 
upon the wild horsemen. One volley followed 
another, so swift and deadly, that at a hundred 



282 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

yards the Cheyennes, lacking now the fire and pas- 
sion of Roman Nose to lead them, broke and fled, 
leaving many more of their dead upon the ground. 

Towards twilight they made a third attack that 
was beaten back in the same fashion, and then while 
the women still wailed, the warriors formed a great 
camp, in a ring about the island, but beyond the 
range of those rifles, which had cut down so many 
of their bravest warriors. Forsyth knew now that 
a close siege would be maintained and that, unless 
help came, — of which there seemed to be no chance 
— all the valor of his men would be as nothing. 

Twilight was now at hand. The day was closing 
upon one of the most remarkable scenes of valor 
ever witnessed upon the American continent. Both 
white and red had done as much as man could expect 
The sun set in a sea of fire, throwing its last rays 
across the fatal plain. Here and there lay the bodies 
of fallen warriors. The mournful wailing came 
from the bluffs again. Then the sun vanished and 
after it came the gray of early night. A low wind 
rose and blew sadly. 

The defenders came forth from the rifle pits and 
counted their wounds which were enough to supply 
two or three to every man, and they bound up their 
fresh hurts received in the last two attacks. The 
evening breeze was cool on Bob's forehead, but he 
walked in an unreal world. It seemed impossible 
that he could live after all the fire and tumult of the 
day. The island had been torn by thousands of 
bullets, and had it not been for the sand pits, not a 
man would have escaped. 



THE CHARGE OP ROMAN NOSH 283 

The boy's heart throbbed. The roaring was still 
in his ears, and the night seemed weird and 
unearthly. He ate and drank with Stillwell, and 
then slowly came back to the earth. Trudean 
and several of the best sharpshooters kept watch 
while the others rested, but the Cheyennes main- 
tained their distance for the present. Lights by and 
by leaped np on the bluffs, but the mournful wailing 
still came. On the island they were wholly in the 
gray darkness, which did not hide the defenders 
from one another, but which rendered them invisible 
to the Indians on the plains. 

The wind by and by rose a little and began to 
moan. But there was dampness in it as it touched 
Bob^s face, and the fever left his veins. His tem- 
ples, too, ceased to throb, and the sand no longer 
burned when his hand lay against it. The gray of 
the night turned to black, and the Indian fires on the 
bluffs shone through it like stars. The wind rose 
yet higher, and the dampness in its touch increased. 

A low rumble came from the far southern horizon, 
inexpressibly solemn after the day's terrible strife. 
All the men heard it, but none spoke. It is likely 
that they felt the same awe that was in the breast 
of Bob. They were now but little more than the 
grains of sand beneath them, as they lay there on 
the tiny island in the vast wilderness. 

The far rumble came again and was repeated, a 
little closer and a little louder. Lightning flared on 
the dim horizon, and the wind moaned without 
ceasing. 

Drops of rain struck the men. They turned their 



284 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

faces upward to meet them, and were grateful for 
the cool touch. The rumble of the thunder ceased 
and became a crash. Then the lightning cut with 
such vivid strokes across the sky that the whole 
valley swam in its glare, disclosing the island, the 
shallow river, the grassy plain with the dark bodies 
of the dead lying thick upon it, and the hills beyond, 
crowned with the Indian fires. Then the darkness 
closed in again and the rushing rain came. 

None of the white men cared how long the rain 
fell, but it ceased by and by and the moon and stars 
sprang out. Then troops of wolves, drawn by a 
hideous instinct, came down from the hills. But the 
same instinct would not let them come within range 
of the rifles, and they stood at a distance, howling in 
a terrible lupine chorus. 

**How are you feeling now, Bobt*' asked Stillwell 
at last. 

** Better,'' sighed the boy. ** Things are begin- 
ning to look real to me again. If only those wolves 
and women would stop howling. ' ' 

**IVe come back to earth myself,'* said Stillwell. 
**IVe had a lot of Indian fighting, and IVe been in 
some hot corners before, but I've never seen any- 
thing like this, and I hope never to see anything like 
it again. I don't understand how any of ns ev0r 
came out of it alive. ' ' 

Bob said nothing, but he felt a deep thankfulness. 
He was presently called with some others by the 
commander who thanked them for their bravery and 
tenacity, and encouraged them to endure still more. 
Forsyth lay against a mass of bandages with one 



■jH 



THE CHARGE OF ROMAN NOSE 285 

blanket under him and another over him. Bob 
regarded him with wonder and an admiration that 
grew always. An ordinary man would have been 
dead already of his wounds, but Forsyth still lived 
and still commanded. 

Bob volunteered to watch through the night with 
Trudeau, Stillwell and a half dozen more. He 
pointed to the fact that he was one of the five or six 
who had escaped without wounds, and the Colonel 
consented. Then he and Stillwell, now close com- 
rades who seemed to have known one another for 
years, went back to their sand pits where they talked 
in low tones as they watched. 

The night darkened again, but their eyes became 
so well used to it that they could see the fallen horses 
and the plain, and the outline of the bluffs beyond. 
There the fires burned all through the night, and the 
mournful wailing did not cease until late. 

After midnight some of the Cheyenne skirmishers 
crept along the plain and fired a few shots, but they 
flew wild, and the sentinels did not think it worth 
while to reply. Most of the others slept so heavily 
that the reports did not awaken them. 

The two, wrapped in their blankets because the 
night was chill, ceased to whisper by and by, and 
sat almost motionless in the sand pits. The wind 
rose a little and came with a wailing sound up the 
bed of the river and among the reeds. But on the 
island scarcely anything stirred. Deep exhaustion 
reigned there. The cold moon looked down on an 
island which might well have been taken for an 
island of the dead. Colonel Forsyth, wrapped in 



286 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

his blanketSy sank into a stupor, but he roused him- 
self from it at dawn which came on crisp and cloud- 
less, showing the Indians still in a circle about the 
island, but out of rifle range. The siege had begun. 

Forsyth made preparations for a long and des- 
perate defense. A circular breastwork of sand was 
thrown up entirely around this little camp. In the 
center they dug a well, an easier task than it would 
seem as the cool waters rose in the sand when they 
had gone down a few feet. They also cut strips 
from the slain horses, not knowing to what straits 
they might arrive for food. 

Their tasks occupied the whole morning, and the 
Cheyennes made no demonstration save an occa- 
sional distant rifle shot or a defiant whoop from a 
warrior well out of range. These things were the 
merest trifles to them now. The afternoon passed 
in the same way, the second night came, and then it 
was Bob^s turn to sleep. His nerves were so well 
rested that he did not awake once during the night. 
While he slept the Cheyennes crept up and carried 
oflF most of their slain, including Eoman Nose and 
the medicine man. The soldiers heard them, but did 
not seek to interfere. 

The second day came and the horse meat could 
not longer be eaten. Other food was too scarce to 
withstand a long siege, and unless help was brought 
it became evident that sooner or later they must fall 
into the hands of the Cheyennes. Valor could avail 
nothing against starvation. But the dauntless soul 
of Forsyth, suffering from his terrible triple wounds, 
still would not despair. 



THE CHAKGE OF ROMAN NOSE 287i 

** Somebody must get through to-night,*' he said, 
*'and go to Fort Wallace for help. It is a desperate 
chance. Who will take itt" 

* * I ! I ! I ! ' ' shouted half a score, Bob among them. 
But Forsyth chose the two scouts, old Pete Trudeau 
and young Jack Stillwell. 

**Tou have had the most experience outside of 
Grover whom I must keep with me,*' he said, **and 
you are the most likely to succeed. When do you 
think will be the best time to creep out, Petef 

** To-night along about midnight,*' replied the 
scout. **I think it is going to be dark. What do 
you say, Jack?** 

**You're right,** replied Stillwell. **If we can*t 
get through then we never will, but we*re going to 
get through." 

They made their preparations in the afternoon, 
merely an increase of cartridges, a little more food 
in their wallets, and they were ready. Then the 
night came, cloudy and dark as Trudeau had pre- 
dicted. All accepted it as a good omen. But the 
two men waited until midnight when, hearing no 
noise from the Cheyennes, they decided to start. 
Stillwell had selected what seemed to be the most 
dangerous plan. He intended to cross the river and 
go directly towards the bluffs where the main Indian 
encampment lay. It was his theory, and Colonel 
Forsyth approved of it, that the Indians would be 
less vigilant on that side. He and Trudeau would 
cross the plain, crawling on their stomachs, and then 
pass over the bluffs by the side of the Indian 
encampment. 



288 HOESEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

It was Bob's night on the watch, and he was one of 
those who saw the daring scouts leave. His heart 
was filled with admiration for both, and he gave a 
strong farewell clasp to the hand of his good friend, 
Jack. 

**We'll be back, Bob, and we'll bring the troopers 
with us," said Stillwell, confidently. **Tou can look 
for us. ' ' 

He and Trudeau dropped silently over the earth- 
works and crawled along the sand. Bob followed 
their dark figures for a little distance as they crept 
on the edge of the island, and then he lost them in 
the further darkness. Listening intently he heard 
a faint splash or two in the water, but he neither 
saw nor heard anything more. 

The boy was now beside the Colonel, and the two 
waited a long time, dreading to hear the sound of 
shots or of exultant yells, telling that the two scouts 
were slain or taken. The minutes dragged, a slow 
chain. 

' **They are across the river now,'* whispered the 
Colonel. **When I close my eyes I can see them 
lying almost flat, crawling across the plain." 

Bob said nothing, but he never took his eyes off 
the camp-fires, shining through the darkness, which 
showed where the bluffs stood. Trudeau and Still- 
well were going straight towards those lights. 

**They must be at least three hundred yards away 
now," whispered the Colonel. **Do you hear any- 
thing, Bobf " 

**Not a thing, sir," replied Bob, *' except those 
coyotes howling away off there to the north.** 



THE CHARGE OF ROMAN NOSE 289 

** Brave lads! Brave lads!" muttered the Colonel. 
*'They must have gone a quarter of a mile now. 
What do you think, Bob?'' 

* * I should think so, sir, ' ' replied the boy. 

**You are sure you don't hear anything — ^any 
sound of a struggle ? ' ' 

** Nothing at all, sir, but if I have your consent 
I will creep a little way along the sand and listen." 

"Do it." 

Bob stepped over the earthworks, and then lying 
almost flat upon his face pushed himself along untU 
he reached the river. There he lay with his ear to 
the sand, but heard nothing save the faint ripple of 
the water. He could now see objects on the oppo- 
site shore more distinctly. Presently his eyes made 
out the figure of a dead horse, and then that of a 
warrior huddled up, lying as he had fallen. 

While he stared, trying to read in the darkness 
the whole story of the plain, he saw two moving 
shadows. Gazing at them long and intently, he saw 
that the shadows were men, and for the first time * 
he felt despair. Trudeau and Stillwell, finding the 
way closed, were creeping back, and no help could 
ever come. 

The figures advanced, and as they came closer 
they were outlined more clearly against the bank. 
Then the war-bonnets and naked shoulders showed 
that they were not the two scouts, but Cheyenne war- 
riors creeping forward. Bob crouched closer and 
slipped his rifle in his hands until a finger rested on 
the trigger. Then he marked an imaginary spot) 
If they reached it he would fire. 

19 



290 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

The two warriors veered a little, and Bob let his 
rifle drop upon the sand again. He would not fire. 
The Cheyennes were now beside the dead warrior, 
lying in his cramped-np position. They suddenly 
straightened up, and when they did so they bore the 
body between them. Eimning swiftly, they carried 
it oflf for burial or the funeral pyre. 

Bob waited a little longer, and still seeing and 
hearing nothing returned to the earthworks. 

**The plain is quiet, sir,'* he said to Colonel 
Forsyth. ^'I can't detect a sign of a disturbance 
anywhere.'* 

^^It is good," said this man who could move but 
little, but who could command well. ' ^ I should judge 
that they are at least a half mile away. Watch 
those lights." 

They watched them. A half hour — an hour 
passed, then a second hour and then a third. All 
the time the lights burned steadily and did not shift. 
It was after three o 'clock in the morning when Col- 
onel Forsyth moved slightly on his blanket. 

"Now I can go to sleep," he said. "Trudeau and 
Stillwell are through, and we shall be saved.'' 



CHAPTER XIX 

THE AMAZING FLIGHT 

While Colonel Forsyth and Bob watched and lis-* 
tened long at the bank of sand. Jack Stillwell and 
Pete Tmdeau were creeping forward on a task so 
thickly bestrewed with dangers that the chance of 
ever achieving it seemed but slight. They had left 
the island, they had crossed the river, lying in its 
wide bed, and were now advancing toward the very 
bluffs on which the Indian camp lay. 

The leader in this daring venture was the boy, 
Jack Stillwell. He was superior in intelligence to 
his older comrade, Pete Trudeau, and Colonel For- 
syth recognizing it, had given him the instructions, 
and had told him that he must make Trudeau follow 
his judgment. But Trudeau himself willingly took 
second place, and followed the brave and handsome 
youth who was destined in later days to become a 
judge and man of large affairs in Oklahoma. 

The two, after emerging from the sand bed of the 
river, lay for a few minutes flat upon the plain, their 
rifles close by their sides, listening intently and look- 
ing for enemies with eyes trained by the wild life 
of the border. They heard low sounds and then a 
pattering of light feet. 

^^ That's coyotes, isn't it, Pete!'* said Jack in the 
lowest of whispers. 

** Coyotes and the big timber wolves, too,'' replied 

991 



THE AMAZING FLIGHT 293 

they had never been. Jack Stillwell passed his 
hands before his eyes as if he would sweep away a 
mist or veil. Used as he was to the wilderness, he 
was oppressed by its ominous loneliness, and their 
own position on a narrow strip, between life and 
death. But he could shut his eyes and see the faces 
of his comrades, especially that of the gallant youth. 
Bob Norton, who had become such a good comrade 
of his. He and Trudeau must get through I They 
must save the heroic little band that had made such 
a tremendous fight against more than twenty to one. 

Jack turned his eyes away from the island and 
toward the bluffs, where lights burned and where 
even after the third day the wailing of the women 
for their dead still arose. It was a singular weird 
chant, and it contained a threat as well as grief. It 
got upon the nerves of the older man. 

*'Jack,'' whispered Trudeau, **donH you think 
we'd better turn back and try to escape up or down 
the bed of the river t ' ' 

*'No,'' replied Jack. ** They '11 be keeping a 
double watch there, and we could never get by. If 
we make it, Pete, and we're going to make it, we 
must take a road they won't expect us to choose." 

He resumed the slow crawling on hands and knees, 
and Trudeau, obeying the superior will, followed. 
Jack led straight toward the lights and now, both to 
right and left, they saw the figures of Cheyennes 
passing. Never did men need a dark night more, 
and fortunately the early promise held good. There 
was a little moon, but heavy clouds were continually 
floating before it, and the whole surface of the plain 



294 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

/ 

I 

was in deep obscurity. They hoped that as long as 
they lay so close to the earth they might pass. Both 
were in great fear lest Indian dogs should scent 
them and betray their presence, but this danger did 
not yet develop itself. The two heard the stamp of 
the Indian ponies, and an occasional neigh, and they 
saw squaws bringing fuel for the fires, and the dark 
outlines of skin tepees that the Indians had pitched 
on the bluffs. Then they rested once more and tried 
to pick out the place for their passage. 

Jack noticed at last a dark spot in the bluffs, and 
he was convinced that a dip or depression between 
the hills lay there. The fires burned both to right 
and left, and he could account for the hiatus on no 
other ground. He felt sure that it was the road by 
which they must pass, and he touched Tmdean's arm 
Ughtly. 

** Don't you think that's our path, Petef '* he said, 
pointing to the dark space. 

**If we are to find any, that's it," Tmdean whis- 
pered in reply. 

Both now remained flat and still, longer than 
usual. Their knees and elbows were sore from so 
much creeping, and since they were upon the Indian 
camp they must choose the way well. If the chance 
failed there would be no other. 

'*Now, Pete," Jack whispered at lengtE, **weTl 
make the try." 

They scarcely crawled ; they lay almost flat on the 
ground, dragging themselves forward by a series of 
muscular contortions like a snake, and makxng no 
noise. They heard voices, the crackling of diy 



THE AMAZING FLIGHT 295 

wood in the fires, and the death chant of the squaws. 

There was a sudden growl, and an Indian cur, 
shooting out of the darkness, leaped like a wolf 
straight at Jack. But Trudeau, reaching straight 
up, grasped the dog by the throat and compressed 
it between two powerful brown hands. Another 
growl had arisen into the cur's mouth, but it died 
behind his teeth, and then the fierce human grip per- 
mitted no more to come. 

A warrior heard the growl and stopped, but not 
hearing it a second time, walked on. A cur snap- 
ping at a bone and yelping at another cur was com- 
mon in an Indian camp, and the warrior, dismissing 
the incident from his mind, looked with vengeful 
glance toward the island where the white foe lay 
hidden in the sand. He did not know that the 
greatest of all opportunities was almost within reach 
of his hand. 

Jack saw the warrior, and his fingers slipped for- 
ward to the trigger of his rifle. But he made no 
movement, and his glance turned back to Trudeau 
and the dog. Pete lay flat upon his side, and his 
great brown fingers were sunk deep in the hairy 
throat. The powerful muscles in his arms rose 
under his sleeves as he poured all his strength into 
them. The dog kicked, tore at the earth with his 
hind paws, shuddered and then was still. Trudeau 
loosed his grip and laid him upon the ground. The 
dog was quite dead. 

**You did that in great style, Pete,'* whispered 
Jack, **and it saved us. Come on.*' 

They were a long time in making the short dia- 



296 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

tance that separated them from the dark space 
between the bluffs, and both rejoiced when they saw 
that their guess was correct. The bluff dipped 
down there, making a sort of sunken ridge, covered 
with short bushes and too rough for a camp. 

Although low fires burned on either side not many 
yards away, they believed that they could pass 
through the depression. At least they must try. 
Stillwell still led, and they entered the little pass, 
moving scarcely more than a yard a minute. When 
they reached the shelter of the bushes they paused 
at least five minutes. From where they lay they 
saw the fires quite well, and the Indians sitting ox 
standing beside them. They even heard words, 
some of which they understood. The warriors were 
speaking of their losses, and of their confidence that 
they would yet secure the foe whom they encircled. 
Savage and implacable, they had no thought of 
giving up. 

Stillwell slowly led the way again. The bushes 
were at once a help and a danger. They covered 
their bodies, but a rustling among them might draw 
the Indian's gaze. Now the two scouts exercised 
every precaution known to the most skilful of bor- 
derers. Neither put down hand or foot until he saw 
that it would rest in a place that gave forth no noise. 
It was painfully slow, it was hard to be so patient, 
with warriors all about them not twenty yards away, 
but they held their nerves under control, and never 
sought to increase speed. They even dared to rest 
more than once, lying still for five minutes at a time^ 
and from the covert of the bushes, surveying tbe 



THE AMAZING PLIGHT 297 

Indian camp about them. It was a full hour before 
they traversed the length of the little ravine between 
the bluffs. Then they found themselves on the far 
side of the Indian camp, and outside the circle. 
But they did not stop until they had gone several 
hundred yards beyond the lights, where they lay 
among some bushes and held a brief and whispered 
conference. 

**I think we'd better get out now and make a break 
for it,*' said Trudeau. *^ Let's trust to our speed.'' 
I ** Don't think of it," Jack replied, earnestly. 
**The main camp's behind us I know, but the coun- 
try for miles is bound to be swarming with their 
scouts and skirmishers, and we've got to be all the 
more careful now because it won't be long till dawn." 

Trudeau, as usual, gave up to his younger com- 
rade, and they continued to crawl on hands and 
knees, soon finding that their action was fully justi- 
fied, as Cheyennes, both on foot and horseback, 
passed them, and they saw one fire in a little grove 
where several Indians slept and two others watched. 

The country here, luckily for them, had a con- 
siderable growth of bushes, and as long as they 
remained on hands and knees they were not likely 
to be seen, unless the enemy came very close. But 
the crawling was horribly monotonous, and was 
growing quite painful. Their knees were bruised, 
and every joint was stiff and sore. They were com- 
pelled to take a long resl among some willows, and 
there they ate scraps of food that they carried in 
their haversacks. 

While they ate they saw the east lighten, and the 



298 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

aspens and willows began to whiten and quiver. 
Then, as the world turned slowly, the great sun 
swung into view, the white lights turned to red, and 
the wild plains were suffused with its glow, in six 
hours of crawling they had come three miles, and 
the day showed more clearly than ever that they still 
had need of the utmost caution. A half dozen bands 
of Indians were in sight, and the smoke of camp-fires 
rose straight in front of them. 

**It's crawling again for us,*' said StillwelL 

**It looks like it,'' said Pete, ruefully. "I gness, 
Jack, that if we ever get through with this it'll be 
hard for us to rise up and walk like men.'' 

"That isn't our worst trouble," said Jack. 
** Practice will bring it back. Come on, Pete, and 
we'll see which of us is the better crawler." 

The grim competition lasted aU the morning. 
Again and again the temptation to stand up and 
walk like men was almost overpowering, indeed it 
would have been overpowering for Trudeau, but 
Stillwell resisted for both. Twice he pulled the 
older man down and encouraged him continually, 
justifying the confidence that Forsyth had put in 
him, despite his youth. Throughout the long, ter- 
rible hours they were never out of sight of Indians. 
They saw them on foot and on horseback, in little 
parties and alone, and at intervals they heard the 
distant sound of rifle-shots coming from the island 
through the thin, clear air. 

The Indians were so numerous, even beyond the 
bluffs, that it seemed now as if they could never pass. 
Trudeau spoke despondently, but Stillwell, despite 



_ ■ . — * ' 



THE AMAZING PLIGHT 299 

the sinkiiig of his heart, would not let a word of 
disconragement escape him. 

**WeVe just got to do it I WeVe just got to do 
it, Pete I ^' he said with energy. 

The sun was brilliant and intensely clear, making 
all objects conspicuous, and they could not relax 
caution for a moment. Their soreness and stiffness 
increased. Their knees now were cut and bleeding, 
and their backs ached. The sun, too, beat down 
upon them. In the afternoon they came to the divide 
that separates the Arickaree from the Republican 
Eiver, and here Stillwell saw a wash-out around 
which sunflowers and tall grass clustered thickly, 
forming a dense screen. He was so tired that he 
could scarcely move, and he saw that Trudeau was 
almost in a state of collapse. 

*^Pete,'' he said, ** let's creep in here and rest the 
remainder of the day. ' * 

**I don't have to be asked twice,*' said Trudeau. 

They slipped in through the grass and sunflowers, 
rearranging the latter behind them so carefully that 
no sign of a trail would be shown, and then lay 
down panting, but thankful, in the little sandy wash- 
out. 

It was a close, snug place, and they remained in it 
all the afternoon, hearing at intervals rifle-shots 
about the island, and now and then when they peeped 
through the tall grass, seeing Indians riding about 
the prairie. 

Stillwell grew very anxious. He knew that time 
was precious as diamonds, but he did not dare to 
move from the wash-out until night had fully come. 



300 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

Both he and Trudeau awaited eagerly the advance 
of the twilight, and then the heavier darkness of the 
night. Before the moon could come np they slipped 
from the protection of the grass and simflowers, and 
started erect like men. 

**I can walk again, Jack,** whispered Trudeau, 
'*and I*m a man, not a monkey.** 

The youth laughed softly in the darkness. 

**It does feel good to stand on one*s own feet,*' 
he whispered back. **Come on now, Pete. We*ve 
got to make the most of the night-time. I hope it 
will stay dark as it did last nighf 

His hopes were fulfilled. When the moon came 
out it was veiled in vapors and shed but little light 
although enough for them to see the way, which le 
through bushes and now and then across a raviut 
It was also sufficient to disclose to their watch ill 
eyes numerous Indian trails, and they knew that (he 
time had not yet come when they could relax didr 
caution a particle. 

Before midnight clouds began to gather and the 
moon was hidden. A wind, damp to the tench, blew 
with a sad, sighing sound out of the sonthwest 
Low thunder rolled, and now and then the lightning 
flared across the prairie. 

**I hope we won*t have any storm,*' said StillwdL 
**It would hold us back.** 

*' There won*t be much rain,** said Trndeaii, 
weather-wise with the experience of many years. 

The wind presently blew a little harder, and a 
slant of rain came, but it soon ceased. Then the low 
thunder rolled again, and the lightning flared llt^ 



THE AMAZING FLIGHT 301 

fully, but neither lasted long, and the two scouts, 
messengers now, went on as swiftly as they could. 
They were going toward the south, and about an 
hour after the rain passed the two, by the same 
impulse and at the same moment, sank softly down 
among the bushes where they lay flat against the 
earth. 

A war party of Cheyennes, at least fifty in num- 
ber and mounted, was passing. There was enough 
light now to disclose their painted faces, their war- 
bonnets, and their naked bodies. They rode in 
single file, and not one spoke. The unshod hoofs of 
their ponies made a low measured beat as they 
passed. 

**TheyVe going to the island to take part in the 
siege,'* whispered Jack. *'Bob and all those fellows 
will surely need help as soon as we can bring it.'* 

Two hours later they passed another Indian band 
of about the same size, and again they lay hidden 
among the bushes while it passed. 

Dawn came a second time, and to their alarm they 
found that they were on the outskirts of a great 
Indian village, probably the one which furnished the 
warriors who were attacking Forsyth. They had 
come so close to it in the darkness that they could 
not retreat in the day. They saw many lodges, and 
warriors, women and children were everywhere. 

Jack and Trudeau thought themselves lost, but the 
eyes of the boy, always extremely quick, alighted 
upon a small swamp, that is, a patch of tall grass 
growing out of water. 

**Come, Pete,'* he exclaimed, **weVe got to hide 



302 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

in there. It's great luck that we haven't been seen 
already. ' ' 

They slipped into the swamp and went to its very 
center where they sat down to their waists in the 
grass and water. Here they could not be seen from 
the edge of the swamp, but they could hear the many 
noises of the village, the squaws talking, the barking 
of dogs, the whistling of boys to the ponies, and even 
the tread of warriors passing the little marsh. 
About ten o'clock a party of mounted Indians 
stopped and watered their horses at its edge. The 
two hidden scouts could hear the horses as they 
swallowed. 

Jack and Trudeau scarcely breathed until the 
horses finished drinking and the men rode on. Then 
they looked at each other, two strange creatures 
with their heads and shoulders projecting above the 
water, but hidden in the grass. 

**Do you think we'll ever get through. Jack? Do 
you think we'll ever get through!" asked Tmdean, 
something weak and plaintive appearing in his voice. 

**0f course we will," replied Jack, showing a con- 
fidence that he scarcely felt. ** Think what a fine 
rest we can get, Pete, while we're here with nothing 
to do but sit in the water." 

The day was warm, but they were so long in the 
water that they began to grow cold. Jack felt the 
chill creeping up his body, but he did not dare move. 
The slightest noise might attract the dogs, and Pete 
could not choke them all to death before they gave 
the alarm. At noon they ate scraps of food again, 
and then they waited for the long afternoon to pass. 



THE AMAZING FLIGHT 303 

The chill and the tension became so great that 
they were forced at last to take the chances and 
move a little. They even dared to straighten up 
in the grass and stand erect for a minute or 
two. When they sank down again they felt much 
better. 

Their third night came, and cold and stiff they 
crept out of the swamp. It was some time before 
they could stand erect with ease, and men less reso^"^ 
lute than they would have given up. It was now a 
pain to exert the mind as well as the body, but they 
rubbed their wrists and legs until the circulation 
was restored, and then, haggard and wan, their wet 
clothing streaked with mud and their eyes red from 
watching and loss of sle^p, they took up once more 
their flight toward help. 

They passed around the village without being 
seen, and with a new strength that came from hope, 
fled onward at a pace that would not have seemed 
possible in men who had endured so much. They 
were not able to travel the entire night, as the 
strength of both, particularly Trudeau's, began to 
wane again. Feeling that they must take the 
chances, both lay down after midnight, and at once 
sank into a deep slumber. 

Jack was the first to awake, and it was dawn. He 
sprang to his feet, but saw nothing alarming, and 
then he awakened Trudeau. Before them lay open 
plains, and as they believed that they had now left 
the Indians behind, they resolved to travel by day. 
Time, be it repeated, was more precious than dia- 
monds, and the lives of their friends might turn on 



304 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

a single hour. They agreed to risk it, and set oS 
at a good pace across the plain. 

The sun rose, flooding the land with the usual 
sharp, clear light. They had been walking more 
than an hour, and just as they were about to top a 
swell Jack seized Trudeau and pulled him down in 
the grass, falling himself at the same time by his 
side. A party of at least a dozen warriors were 
coming straight toward them, but had not yet seen 
them. Yet, it seemed that they were now surely lost. 

But Jack Stillwell was one who never gave up 
hope. A few yards to the right he saw a patch of 
weeds, and he and Trudeau at once crept into it. 
Then they made a discovery. In the center of this 
patch lay the skeleton of a big buflfalo, long since 
dead, but with some of the skin hanging upon it, and 
all the bones intact and upright. Men in desperate 
case often do desperate things, and do them quickly. 
Jack Stillwell and Pete Trudeau at once crawled 
inside the ribs of the buflfalo, and lay, side by side, 
in that extraordinary hiding-place. They did not 
dare move, but they peeped between the ribs and 
pieces of skin, and saw the Indian party go on. They 
rejoiced, but too soon. Other Indians, mounted and 
apparently scouts, appeared. This seemed to be a 
post for sentinels, and they were constantly coming 
and going. The singular hiding place of Jack and 
Trudeau became an equally singular trap, and there 
they lay. 

The Indians often came as near as twenty yards. 
One came within fifteen yards and sat there on his 
horse a full hour, examining the country in all 



2iM 



THE AMAZING FLIGHT 305 

directions. He was a fine warrior, entirely naked 
save for moccasins and war-bonnet, and he carried 
a magnificent lance. While the Indian *s side was ^ 
tnmed toward the buffalo, Trudeau softly pressed 
Jack's shoulder with his hand. 

**What is it, Petef whispered Jack. 

^^Somethin* else is in here with us.'* 

Jack listened and heard a faint, soft sound that 
made the blood grow cold in every vein. A rattle- 
snake, before them, had taken up its abode in the 
skeleton of the buffalo. They did not know why it 
had remained quiescent so long, but now it was 
moving. 

It is probable that no men have ever been in a 
more terrible position, one so dangerous, and at the 
same time so full of horror. They could see but 
little, a chance blow would not do, and the slightest 
noise would attract the attention of the Indian war- 
rior. 

They lay still for a while — ^how long they could not 
tell — in a sort of paralysis, and then it was Trudeau, 
the weaker of the two, who saved them. The lives 
of many people may turn upon absurd things, and 
now the fortune of a campaign was to be decided 
by a chew of tobacco. It would be doubly ridiculous, 
if it were not true. 

Trudeau was of the old type, and he always car- 
ried tobacco with him. Now he had a quid in his 
mouth, and he was chewing vigorously for consola- 
tion and strength. Lying upon his side and one 
shoulder, he faintly saw the snake near his feet, 
coiling, and raising his head to strike. Perhaps it 

20 



306 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

was impnlse, an inspiration of the moment, but old 
Pete Trudeau spat a stream of bitter brown tobacco 
juice straight at the venomous head. It struck full 
and true. Blinded and dazed the rattlesnake 
uncoiled and slid swiftly out of the skeleton. 

Pete lay back exhausted, and Jack, himself , was 
dizzy with the relapse after such tension. The 
Indian, on his horse, never moved. Trudeau, by 
and by, raised up a little and began to talk to him- 
self. Jack tried to quiet him, and presently he 
understood what had happened. Trudeau *s mind 
had become affected for the time, by one tremendous 
ordeal after another. He was tired now, he said, 
of crawling and hiding. He wanted to fight, and 
he meant to fight. He would not stay where he was 
forever, even if all the Indians that ever lived were 
out there. Bage steadily rose and grew in his 
breast, and he meant to take vengeance. 

This was the most terrible moment of all for Jack. 
In the lowest of voices he tried to soothe Trudeau 
and make him see reason. It was a sort of mental 
struggle between them while the Indians rode out- 
side, but the valiant youth conquered. Under his 
soothing words the rage of Trudeau began to abate. 
He ceased by and by to mutter, and lay still for a 
long time. 

They did not move until dark. Then they came 
forth, a sorry sight, but still uncaptured, and siiQ 
zealous for their mission. They found a pool of 
cool water near, and when Trudeau drank from it 
and bathed his face, his mind regained its balanca 

They traveled all night without meeting any more 



-ill 



THE AMAZING FLIGHT 307 

Indian parties, and with their experience of the day 
before fresh in their minds, they meant to hide the 
next day, but a pale, yellowish snn rose in a fog, so 
dense that one could see but a little distance. The 
sun did not dispel the fog, and they pressed on 
through it. About an hour before noon, they saw 
through the haze, two mounted figures near them on 
the prairie. The eyes of Jack Stillwell, yet strong 
and alert, recognized the uniforms of the United 
States Army. 

* * Soldiers ! ' ' he cried. 

.Then he and Trudeau rushed forward. 



CHAPTER XX 
A LIGHT IN THE DARK 

The morning of the third day came, and although 
little was said in the island camp, the spirits of the 
men were better. All felt sure that Trudeau and 
Stillwell had got through the Indian lines, and that 
some time or other, help would arrive. It was now 
their task to hold out as long as food and life lasted 
Another reduction was made in the rations, and they 
found it necessary to bury the bodies of the horses 
in the sand. 

Bob, that afternoon, fell into a fever caused by the 
excitement and the great strain. For a little while 
he was unconscious, and he babbled of Sam Strong 
and his old comrades, of trapping beaver, and of 
shooting down a great river between cliffs a mile 
high. In the cool of the night he revived, and was 
much ashamed of himself, but the others laughed at 
his apologies. Ahnost every one in his turn, suffered 
from some sort of delirium or other, but they were 
so hardy that nearly all of them began to recover 
fast, although their wounds were sufficient to kiU 
ordinary men. Colonel Forsyth was one of the 
worst hurt of them all, but his courage never iSinched 
for a moment. In fact, he cut the bullet from his 
thigh himself with his own razor which was in his 
haversack, and with its removal, began to improve 
fast. 

908 



...iMti 



A LIGHT IN THE DARK 309 

That night they sent out two more messengers — 
Donovan and Pliley — for help, in case the first two 
should fail, and Forsyth dispatched by them a letter 
to the commanding officer at Fort Wallace, written 
with a pencil on a leaf from his memorandum book. 
He gave details of the battle and said that he could 
hold out six days longer. Donovan and Pliley 
slipped away in the darkness and the rest settled 
back to waiting again. 

The Cheyennes maintained a continual stalking 
of the island. Their sharpshooters, by night and by 
day, crept forward and sent bullets at the breast- 
works. The men were compelled to be very watch- 
ful, but they did not often fire in return, reserving 
their strength and ammunition for another charge, 
if one should be made. But as the time passed and 
the Indians did nothing but skirmish. Colonel For- 
syth became convinced that a grand attack would 
not be made again. 

''They think starvation will do the work,'* he said, 
*'and it would if our messengers had not slipped 
through their lines.*' 

He did not waver in his belief that the scouts had 
succeeded and Bob shared his faith. If they had 
been taken it would have been the Indian nature to 
have exulted over it and to have shown some sign, 
but none came from the blujBfs. The lights still 
shone there at night and often by day they could see 
the Indians moving about on the plain out of rifle 
range, but nothing occurred to indicate any change 
in the siege. 

The fourth day, the fifth and the sixth passed 



310 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

wiiH the same constant sniping of the skirmishers 
and the same incessant watchfuhiess on the island. 
It was 80 tense a life, so singular in all its aspects, 
that Bob fell again into a state of unreality. It 
seemed to him that he had been there forever. His 
range was limited to a circle of sand ten yards 
across. The people with whom he lived, and the 
only ones whom he knew, were a few men, brown as 
leather, carrying many gnn-shot wounds in tight 
bandages. Their sentences were few and short 
Conversation was as restricted as their home on 
the island. 

The spell was deepest at night. Then he would 
sit long with his rifle across his knees and look at 
the river. It was a shallow stream at low water, 
not more than a foot deep now, but it hemmed them 
in like an ocean. No one sought to pass beyond it. 
Under the moonlight it took on aspects of death 
which it had not. Then its surface was dark, break- 
ing into little crinkly waves here and there, and his 
attentive ear magnified the sighing of the wind 
among the reeds into a gale. Then he would grow 
lonesome, longing for Stillwell, and above all for 
Sam Strong and his^ old comrades. 

The Cheyennes, despite all their losses, seemed to 
regard the troopers as their sure prey. Sometimes 
they came out on the plain and derided the 
defenders. One morning, a large and very fat 
Cheyenne appeared beyond what seemed to be safe 
rifle range, and began to make derisive gestures. 
He was entirely naked, and his actions continued so 
long that the troopers, whose nerves were not in a 



A LIGHT IN THE DARK 311 

good state, began to grow angry. They did not wish 
to be ridiculed by an unclothed savage. 

Colonel Forsyth shared in the annoyance. After 
carefully surveying the distance, he called the best 
three shots in the band and gave to them three rifles 
which would carry about four hundred yards further 
than the others. These rifles had sights for 1200 
yards, but he directed them to aim well over the 
sights at the dancing Cheyenne and fire together, at 
his signal. It was a long chance, and Bob watched 
eagerly for the result. 

' ' Fire I ' ' shouted Forsyth. 

The three rifles cracked together. The fat savage 
leaped into the air, fell upon his face and lay there 
stone dead. But no one of the three marksmen ever 
knew which slew him. After that the Cheyennes 
kept further away and taunted less. 

The seventh day passed and the rations were 
reduced in size again. Men spoke less than ever. 
They were lean and wasted with hunger and disease, 
wounds and watching. But there was still no 
thought of surrender. The little island was yet 
ready to spout fire at any moment, should the 
Cheyennes rush forward to attack, and knowing it, 
they refrained. The long list of great warriors, 
Boman Nose at their head, gone to the happy hunting 
grounds, told them too well that waiting was their 
only road to success. Yet the snipers never ceased 
to worry the island, by day and by night. 

The eighth day was at hand and Bob felt that 
unless help came soon it would come in vain. He 
was reduced greatly in weight, and his strength was 



312 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

declining, but all the others were in the same condi- 
tion. The food, with the utmost possible saving, 
could not last more than two or three days longer, 
and that would be the end. 

The eighth day passed, and Bob sat much of that 
night with Colonel Forsyth, who trusted him and 
treated him like a young cadet. He did not seek to 
hide from the boy the full gravity of their situation. 

^'Trudeau and Stillwell will make for Fort Wal- 
lace, which is about a hundred miles from here,'* he 
said. ^^It would not take them so long to do that 
distance, even on foot, but as the country is swarm- 
ing with Indians they will have to travel by night 
I think we can expect the troops in three more days." 

Bob was not so sure now. When he thought over 
the immense difficulties, it scarcely seemed possible 
that the two scouts could get to Fort Wallace. But 
he said nothing and he had grown so used to danger 
and death that his feelings were blunted. His 
decreasing confidence did not make his heart throb 
any faster. Then the Colonel himself fell into 
silence. He lay upon a blanket with a little heaped- 
up sand for a pillow, as he was not yet able to stand. 
His figure was wasted almost to a skeleton, and his 
face was as white as death. His head was swathed 
in wrapping after wrapping, and his legs, lying use- 
less, were also clothed in bandages. But his eyes, 
deep and fiery, shone out from the white and sunken 
face. Bob looked at him with admiration, wonder 
and affection. He had not believed that any man 
could endure so much, and yet, shot to pieces, he still 
lived and led. 



A LIGHT IN THE DARK 313 

The Colonel by and by fell asleep, and a soldier, 
himself wounded, softly spread a blanket over him. 
Bob rose, walked over the noiseless sand, and softly 
dropped outside the earthwork. There he lay down 
on the sand, and looked up at the moon and the 
great stars dancing in the blue. It was a silent and 
peaceful moment. The Indian snipers were at rest, 
for the time, and as the boy lay there, the spirit of 
hope crept once more into his mind. It could not 
be that they, who had endured so much, that they 
who had done deeds, seemingly impossible to mortal 
man, should fail and die obscurely on that little 
island of sand in the western wilderness. 

After a while, he crept to the edge of the river. It 
did not now look dark and menacing, but flowed 
slowly, with the faintest of soft, singing sounds. 
The bubbles that broke on its surface were tinted 
silver in the moonlight. He looked toward the bluflfs 
where the light from the Indian camp had never 
gone out, and then his eyes passed on to another 
point on the horizon, hitherto always dark. But it 
was not dark now. A light like that of a torch 
twinkled there for a few moments, and then went 
out. It reappeared again presently, but for not 
more than a minute. In a quarter of an hour it 
showed for a third time and then no more, although 
he watched a long while. 

Bob did not know what the brief and fitful light 
meant, but he accepted it as a good omen, and when 
he crept back inside the earthwork, hope was 
stronger within him than it had been at any time 
since the first day. He slept well and saw the dawn 



314 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

of the ninth day, brilliant with sunshine, and cool 
with the touch of early autumn. Then the nioming 
moved on, with the usual slow procession of hours, 
and the fitful shots of the snipers. 

Bob sat at the earthwork, gazing at the bluffs and 
the far circle of the horizon. He was very still. He 
had learned in the last few days the Indian virtues 
of patience and of rest, when work was not needed. 
He was so much at ease that he let his eyelids droop, 
and soon a soft, sweet sound came to his ears. The 
wind among the reeds I No, it was not that, because 
no wind was blowing, and the sound came from 
another quarter. 

He shut his eyes again, because he had an impres- 
sion that he could hear better with them shut, and 
the soft, penetrating note came again. He knew it 
now. It was the far call of a bugle and he sat up 
as suddenly as if an electric shock had shot through 
him. He opened his eyes and looked off toward the 
point where he had seen the fitful light of the night 
before. Something was moving on the brown slopes, 
indistinct figures that came forward in the sunlight, 
until they looked like horses and men. 

Others saw, at the same time, and a deep cheer 
came from all left of the fifty. The troops, in strong 
force, were advancing. Already they were marching 
upon the plain, and the Cheyennes, breaking up 
their camp with great speed, were preparing to 
retreat. 

After his share in the great cheer Bob became 
dizzy. The relief coming after that long and tre- 
mendous strain was so great that the earth reeled- 



A LIGHT IN THE DAEK 315 

He steadied himself against a mound oL sand, and 
as his eyes cleared, looked again at the glorious 
sight, the troopers galloping across the plain toward 
the island, waving their hats and shouting now, and 
the Indians sullenly withdrawing. 

Then came an extraordinary spectacle. Living 
skeletons crawled out from the holes in the sand. 
Bandaged heads, arms and shoulders showed over 
the earthwork. All were pale or white of face, 
ghastly and sunken, from which looked eyes preter- 
naturally enlarged. The graves had literally given 
up their dead. 

The rescuers, with a shout, galloped through the 
stream and then stopped, gazing in amazement at 
the few gaunt figures that had so long held off the 
Cheyenne nation. But Jack Stillwell threw himself 
from his horse, rushed forward and grasped Bob by 
the hand. 

**WeVe come. Bob, my boy I We've come I" he 
cried. * * This is the command of Colonel Carpenter 
that we found at Lake Slater, and you're saved!'' 

The troopers were off their horses now, bringing 
both food and medicines, and hearing the wonderful 
tale of Forsyth's great defense. While their horses 
drank from the stream they looked curiously at the 
little island fortress, the burrows in the sand, the 
shallow well, and all the desperate shifts and expe- 
dients to which the defenders had resorted. 

For the first time in nine days Forsyth's men 
walked freely about the plain. Some scattering 
shots had been fired by skirmishers as the relief 
came up, but the Cheyennes seemed to have enough, 



316 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

and now, with their women and children, were far 
away, waiting to fight again at some other time and 
place. Over the good food that the troopers brought, 
Jack told Bob of the thrilling passage of Trudeau 
and himself through the Cheyenne lines. 

Bob listened breathlessly to the extraordinary 
narrative, one of the most remarkable in the history 
of the plains. He followed all their adventures as 
they crawled night and day, as they hid in the wash- 
out, in the marsh, and at last in the skeleton of the 
buffalo, and he uttered a laugh, half of relief, half 
of amusement, when Trudeau once more put to flight 
the terrible rattlesnake with a stream of tobacco 
juice. 

**The two mounted soldiers we met," concluded 
Stillwell, **were carrying despatches from Colonel 
Carpenter's command, which was then at Lake 
Slater, only fifty miles from our sand island in the 
Arickaree. That was tall luck, as I don't think we 
could ever have got to Fort Wallace in time. The 
two soldiers galloped to Colonel Carpenter, he came 
as fast as he could, and here we are." 

Such was the extraordinary and truthful story of 
the rescue, and it kept Bob's eyes sparkling with 
excitement and amazement. The wonderful defense 
of the island had been crowned by an equally wonder- 
ful escape of the two men through the Indian lines 
in search of rescue, and young Stillwell did not seem 
to be much the worse for his extraordinary adven- 
tures. Donovan and Pliley also, had made their 
way through the lines, and they returned later. 

Bob revived rapidly. His youth, great strength 



A LIGHT IN THE DARK 317 

and elasticity served him well. In a day or two lie 
was as well as ever in all respects. On the second 
day he and Stillwell rode on borrowed horses to 
examine the country in a wide circle about the 
island. The Cheyennes had disappeared completely, 
evidently in search of easier victims elsewhere, and 
they had no fear of ambush or other attack. 

As they rode they came to a small valley, not far 
from the field of battle, and the eye of Bob was 
attracted by an object among some small trees. 
They hastened forward to investigate, and they saw 
a wigwam, constructed with great care from freshly 
tanned buffalo skins of the finest quality. The two 
dismounted, opened the door of the tepee, and then 
they started, awed by what they beheld. 

In the center of the tepee on a Heap of brush lay 
the body of a magnificent savage, the body of a man 
six feet three inches high, with mighty shoulders 
and chest, and the features of a great Eoman in 
bronze. The body was wrapped in buffalo robes, 
and by the side of it lay a beautiful repeating rifle, 
revolver, tomahawk and knife. 

Bob, in the faint light, looked down upon the fea- 
tures of the great chief, Eoman Nose, whom he knew 
so well, and his feeling of awe was succeeded by one 
of respect and admiration. The Cheyenne had fallen 
fighting for his people and their hunting grounds, 
and he had fallen like a hero, leading the warriors 
to the charge. 

**We'll leave him here. Jack, just as he is,*' he 
said to Stillwell. 

**We'll fasten the door tight so the wolves can^t 



318 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

get at him,^^ said StUlwell. **The Indians have 
embalmed l^im in their own way and the body will 
rest here/* 

They made the lodge secure, and then reported 
what they had found. Others went to see it, but the 
body of the great Boman Nose was not disturbed, 
being left in all honor as the Cheyennes themselves 
had placed it. 

The little army was now ready to move again and 
Bob was confronted by an important problem. Sam 
Strong and his comrades had never left his mind, 
and he must find them. But it was the most difficult 
of all things to do in the vast expanse of the west 
Diligent inquiry among the soldiers indicated that 
no party of trappers had passed to the eastward 
along any of the known lines of travel. Cheyennes, 
Sioux and Arapahoes were so thick everywhere that 
in all probability they were still hiding in the hillfli 
awaiting a chance. 

**You can't go alone hunting them, Bob," said 
Stillwell. **Why, if your scalp were nailed down 
and riveted with copper it wouldnH stay on your 
head more than forty-eight hours. From norUi to 
south thirty or forty thousand warriors are wander- 
ing about, eager to snap up any stray white." 

" I 'm afraid your 're right, ' ' said Bob. * * It's hard 
to decide what to do." 

**Why don't you enlist with Custer? This war is 
going to be pushed, and he's the man who will push 
it. With him you'll have more chance to find your 
friends, because they'll naturally make for a strong 
force of soldiers as soon as they hear that it's near.*' 



A LIGHT IN THE DARK 319 

The suggestion appealed to Bob, and he decided to 
offer his services to Custer as soon as they reached 
him. Meanwhile he bade farewell to Forsyth, des- 
tined, despite his terrible wonnds, to live many years 
more and become a general. Then he and some 
others rode into Cnster's camp not long after 
the Battle of the Arickaree, and Bob frankly stated 
why he had come. Custer looked at him with 
interest. 

* * And so you are one of that little band who made 
the great defense on the island in the Arickaree!'* 
he said. **It was a marvelous achievement/* 

Bob blushed at the high praise. 

**I was there by chance,*' he said. **I did not 
really belong to Colonel Forsyth's command." 

**I have heard all about it. You were a hero with 
the others. I shall be glad to take you. We need 
lads of strength and courage like you, and since you 
are riding a borrowed horse, the United States will 
quickly furnish you with another." 

Bob's heart warmed within him. He liked the 
commander, who himself was a very young man, 
under thirty, and an hour later was enrolled in the 
service for the campaign that Custer intended. 



CHAPTER XXI 

A-HORSE WITH CUSTEK 

Bob now spent several weeks riding about the 
plains with Custer and his men in search of the 
Cheyennes who were still raiding everywhere, caus- 
ing great loss of life, cutting off emigrant trains, 
hunters, and detachments of all kinds. Now and 
then they overtook and defeated small bands, but the 
great force kept out of their way. It was known 
definitely that since the death of Boman Nose, Black 
Kettle was head chief, and he was proving himself 
a general of ability. It was also rumored that he 
was helped by a white man, and Bob had no doubt 
that it was Carver. 

Bob never failed to inquire of every one whom 
they met of news of Sam Strong and his friends. 
Nobody had heard anything. It became a certainty 
that they had not reached civilization, but that was 
all. So the boy, as he rode with Custer, continued 
his quest, and he could not have carried it on in any 
other way. The life itself was not without its com- 
pensations. He was well treated, and the com- 
panionship was good. 

The autumn advanced. The brown grass was 
dead to its roots. Then fierce winds blew out of the 
northwest, and often they had an edge of hail or 
snow. But the country, through which they now 
rode, was wooded in part, and they nearly always 

390 



J 



A-HORSE WITH CUSTER 321 

encamped at night in groves where they could find 
plenty of fuel. There the troopers built fires high, 
and gathered in a circle about them, while their 
brethren, the horses, stood in another circle just 
behind the men. Often the snow would blow about 
them, and the horses would come still closer, reach- 
ing over and touching the men with their noses. 
The friendship between man and horse was exceed- 
ingly strong, the result of close association, and of 
the service that each did for the other. Bob remem- 
bered with feeling the splendid mustang that had 
carried him out of danger, but he did not wish to 
have him with him now. He was glad that the great 
horse had gone to take his true place at the head 
of some wild herd. 

They came one evening in a light snowfall to a 
dense wood along a shallow stream, and Bob, who 
was in advance with the scouts, pointed to the trees 
on the branches of which roosted a great throng of 
splendid, bronze turkeys. The hunters at once 
became busy, and shot all that they could possibly 
eat. That night they had a feast. The fires were 
built higher than ever, the men congregated about 
them, and as it was known that no enemy was near, 
Custer allowed them to sing and talk as much as 
they pleased, while the turkeys were roasted or 
broiled, and the savory odors penetrated every cor- 
ner of the dark woods. 

It was a night that Bob will never forget, the roar- 
ing fires showing the tree trunks, filing away in the 
distance, the hundreds of soldiers with their brown 
or ruddy faces, and the feelings of courage and 



322 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

friendship that pervaded everything. It reminded 
him of evenings with his old comrades, only this was 
on a mnch greater scale. 

They had been short of rations, and he ate tnrkey 
as heartily as any of them. Afterwards he sat 
a while, listening to the laughter and the songs, and 
then, wrapping himself in his blanket, he lay down 
under an oak tree. He dozed for a while most pleas- 
antly, body and mind relaxed into a soothing and 
peaceful state. The soldiers and the fires wavered 
before him, and beyond both he could just see the 
backs of the horses, basking also in the genial glow. 
He thought vaguely of the many things that he had 
seen, and he wondered with equal vagueness to what 
end all this marching would come. Then he dropped 
into a sleep that was deep and without dreams. 
Others presently wrapped themselves in their blan- 
kets, and they, too, were soon in a sleep as sound 
as Bob*s. 

The next day the whole force, encouraged and 
refreshed, resumed the march, traveling here and 
there among the hills and on the plains in search of 
the Cheyennes, Bob also seeking for some trace of 
his lost comrades of whom he never despaired, 
although it was now weeks since his capture by the 
Indians. His confidence in Sam Strong, Bill Cole 
and the others was so great that their taking or 
destruction by the Cheyennes seemed impossible to 
him. 

Bob's earnestness and efficiency, his willingness at 
all times to help gave him a high place in the regard 
of the young commander, Custer, who attached him 



■i 



A-HORSE WITH CUSTER 323 

to his personal staff, and because of merit, favored 
him in many ways. The fact that Bob's father had 
fallen in the great Civil War also caused Custer's 
heart to warm towards him, and he sometimes talked 
to the boy of the long struggle, particularly of the 
mighty battle of Gettysburg, where Custer, then 
scarcely more than a boy, had proved himself a 
brilliant cavalry leader. 

*'Two of my friends. Porter Evans and Tom 
Harris, were there,'' said Bob. **One was on one 
side, and one on the other, but that fact seems to 
make them like each other all the better, though they 
never agree about the result of that or any other 
battle." 

''It's a way the boys have," Custer said, *'but it 
does no harm. Out here on the plains we have vet- 
erans of either army, and they are all fighting well 
under the old flag." 

''I've found my best friends here in this wild 
country," said Bob. 

"The wilderness breeds friendship," said Custer. 
'*Men are compelled to rely upon one another." 

The weather now increased in coldness. All the 
signs betokened an extremely severe winter. Snow 
and hail were frequent, but the fierce winds, coming 
off the vast reaches of plain, were the worst. They 
cut to the bone, and many of the men made skin 
masks to protect their faces. An ordinary leader 
would have gone into winter quarters, but Custer 
resolved to defy winter itself, no matter how terrible 
it became. The ravages of the Cheyennes had been 
so severe, so many people had been killed in the last 



324 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

two years, and there had been so mnch devastation 
of all kinds that he was not willing to give them 
another chance. With his regiment, the Seventh 
Cavalry, he pressed the hmit anew. 

It was now the last week of November, and winter 
was in full blast. The regiment, led by friendly 
Osage Indian guides, hit upon a trail so large that 
they believed it to be that of the main Cheyenne band 
under Black Kettle. All the men woke to new life 
at the news, and they pressed forward, hoping that 
they would now find their elusive foe, and compel a 
battle. 

But their bad luck pursued them. About noon the 
skies became overcast. Heavy, solemn clouds 
marched in battalions, fused into one great mass, 
and then began to pour forth snow. To make it still 
worse, the wind arose and the storm was blinding. 
The trail, of course, was quickly lost, and then it 
was as much as the men could do to keep in touch 
with one another. 

As the afternoon waned the storm increased in 
violence. The regiment rode forward, a little army 
of white phantoms. Men and horses were robed in 
snow from head to foot. It was impossible for any 
man to keep clear of it. As fast as they shook off 
one white coat it was replaced by another, and they 
soon gave up the effort. 

As time passed the storm only deepened. The air 
was filled with whirling, white flakes, driven fiercely 
by the wind, and they could not see more than two 
or three hundred yards ahead. But they did not 
complain. It was only one such incident in the long 



•■^i 



A-HORSE WITH CUSTEK 325 

story of the American army on the border, fighting 
for generations in the lonely wastes against a brave 
and crafty foe, obscure battles of which the world 
heard but little, but which were marked by courage 
and devotion equal to any shown on great fields like 
Gettysburg or Chickamauga. 

Bob was near the head of the army, just behind 
General Custer, who closely followed two Osage 
Indian guides. Little Beaver and Hard Bope, and 
several times he turned to look back at one of the 
most remarkable sights that he ever beheld, nearly 
a thousand figures wrapped in snow, riding silently 
on, not a man speaking, not a horse neighing, every 
soldier bent well forward to protect his face from 
the storm, while all the time the shriek of the wind 
across the plain was full of menace. They rode, 
too, through a country of which they knew nothing, 
wholly uninhabitated, except by a savage foe who 
might at any time lay a well-planned ambush for 
them. It was a time and situation when even the 
stoutest heart could find abundant excuse for going 
into winter quarters and awaiting a milder season 
to make war. 

But Custer had no thought of turning back. It 
was his intention now to reach a point on Wolf 
Creek, about thirteen miles from his fortified camp, 
which he had called Camp Supply, and he still hoped 
to make it before dark, but the two Indian scouts 
suddenly stopped and looked at the general. Custer 
read bad news in his eye and he half guessed its 
nature but he asked of the nearer : 

^^What is it, Little Beaver f^' 



326 • HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

**The snow took tHe CHeyenne trail from us,'* 
replied the Indian, a fine tall warrior, * * and now it 
has done more. We have lost the way to Wolf 
Creek. Hard Eope and I have talked it over and 
we tell yon the truth. We do not now know which 
way Wolf Creek lies. What does the yellow-haired 
chief wish to do with usf 

The Indian spoke with resignation, but Bob who 
heard the words knew that the pride of both Little 
Beaver and Hard Bope was deeply hurt. Custer, 
although his disappointment must have been great, 
did not rebuke them. He had now the hearts of the 
friendly Osages, and he knew how to keep them. 

**The storm hides all the country from us," he 
said, * * and where you, Little Beaver and Hard Boi)e, 
have failed, all other men would fail too. It is no 
fault of yours.*' 

The eyes of the two Osages flashed with gratitude, 
and they bent their heads in a sort of proud salute, 
although they said nothing. 

**But,** resumed Custer, cheerfully, ** where man's 
own senses have failed, maybe something that man 
has made will help us." 

He drew from his pocket a little compass, studied 
it carefully, and then announced that Wolf Creek 
lay not many miles almost directly ahead. Little 
Beaver and Hard Eope, who looked curiously at the 
singular little instrument, bowed their heads in sub- 
mission. It was not for them to question the white 
man's magic or to feel hurt because it knew more 
than they. 

The soldiers, who had been sitting silently on fheir 



..^ 



A-HORSE WITH CUSTER 327 

horses, letting the snow beat npon them, raised their 
heads and silently resumed the march. Bob kept 
near Custer, and now two white scouts rode with 
him, one on either side. They were California Joe, 
a famous veteran, and a brave young Mexican, 
named Eomero, but whom the troops always called 
Romeo. Bob, in the easy fashion of the border 
already called him Romeo too. 

** Romeo,'* he asked, **did you ever hear of a man 
called Juan Carver t He is half of your race/' 

Young Romeo's eyes darkened. 

**I Ve heard of him,'' he replied, **and I have seen 
him too, Senor Bob. He is half American, half 
Mexican and all bad. He has led a band to raid 
the beaver grounds either for himself or the Hudson 
Bay Company, and he will do any evil thing that he 
can if he may gain by it. I know that he is with the 
Cheyennes now." 

**I knew that he was," said Bob. **He's an able 
man, and he's probably helping Black Kettle." 

Late in the afternoon they came to Wolf Creek, 
Custer's pocket compass leading them aright, and 
made camp in some thick woods along the stream. 
They managed to clear away a good deal of the 
snow, and to build fires, but the night was trying in 
the extreme. It snowed hard, for a long time, and 
then turned bitterly cold. Had they not been able 
to reach the firewood along the creek, many of them 
would certainly have frozen to death. None slept 
long and they were careful also to see that their 
horses shared in the heat of the fire. 

Morning came, the skies were dear and the snow 



328 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

ceased to fall, but it lay on the ground nearly two 
feet deep, and a bitter wind blew out of the north. 
The trumpet sang boots and saddles, and the men 
mounted, casting, despite themselves, reluctant looks 
at the fires that they were leaving behind. 

** Where are we going now!** asked Bob of Cal- 
ifornia Joe. 

**I don't know,*' replied Joe, **but I know where 
we ain't goin*. We ain't goin' to no warm house; 
we ain't goin' to crawl in on top 'o a feather bed 
under a pile of covers; we ain't goin' to any nice, 
little town, where you can hear the girls play the 
planners, we ain't goin' to do none o' them soft, 
sweet things; we're jest goin* to march, poundin' 
two feet o' snow an' mebbe runnin' across a crowd 
o' howlin' Cheyennes that will give us the picnic o' 
our lives." 

Bob laughed. In the company of hundreds of 
brave men, he felt cheerful, despite every hardship; 

'* Isn't that the kind of a picnic that we're looking 
fort" he asked. 

*'So it is; so it is," said California Joe, "but I 
never before had to look so hard for a scrap, through 
snow up to your neck, with the mercury a hundred 
degrees below zero, an' the wind blowin' a thonsand 
miles an hour." 

Bob laughed, feeling sure that California Joe, 
despite his much grumbling, would be in the thick of 
the fray when they found it. 

But they did not yet find it. Several days passed, 
and they were still ploughing around in the snow 
and cold, sometimes on the plains and sometimeB 



A-HORSE WITH CUSTER 329 

through forests, crossing shallow creeks and rivers 
that were frozen fast in the ice. The Osage sconts 
and trackers, in particular, Little Beaver and Hard 
Eope, showed the greatest courage and devotion, 
but the deep snow seemed to have covered up all 
trails, and their skill and energy availed nothing. 
Custer still refused to go into winter quarters, and 
continued the hunt. Game was abundant. Buffalo 
and deer were everywhere, from which fact the 
scouts drew the inference that the Cheyennes were 
resting in a hidden camp, with plentiful stores of 
food. 

Various bodies of scouts were sent out, including 
one under Major Elliott that went toward the south, 
and the main body of the army, moving on, came to 
the wide and shallow stream of the Canadian Eiver, 
the crossing of which was long, diflScult and danger- 
ous. The heavy wagons containing the supplies 
broke through the ice, and the teamsters, in order 
to keep the horses to their duty, were compelled to 
leap down in the freezing iSood, and pull on the lines, 
or put their shoulders to the wheels. Many of the 
cavalrymen helped them, standing waist deep amid 
the water and the floating ice. It was an extra- 
ordinary scene, typical of the great American wilder- 
ness and the heroism with which it was won. 

Nature could not have provided a sterner aspect, 
the leafless trees, coated with ice, the bleak desola- 
tion of the rolling plains under that great pall of 
snow, the wide sullen river, filled now with broken 
ice, and the grim, silent men whom Custer ever drove 
on and who were always willing to go. Custer him- 



330 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

self rode back and forth amid the ice, encouraging 
and helping. 

It took nearly the whole day to get all the wagons 
across the dangerous flood. Just as the last of them 
was drawn upon the further bank, they heard the 
soft crunch, crunch of swift hoofs in the snow and 
Major Elliott and his scouting party galloped up. 
Bob knew from the look on their faces that they had 
news, and he heard the Major's words when he 
Saluted and addressed Custer. 

**We have struck an Indian trail, sir," said Major 
Elliott. **At least one hundred and fifty warriors 
and their ponies have passed since the last snow fall. 
I suspect that it is a returning party of hunters/* 

*'If so, it will go straight to the big Cheyenne 
camp, wherever it is, and we follow,** said Custer. 

Custer, full of youthful fire and enthusiasm, 
organized the pursuit with amazing rapidity. The 
soldiers, who had been wading in the water, ex- 
changed their wet clothing for dry from the wagons, 
and eighty men, with the poorest horses, were 
detailed as a guard for the wagons, which must 
advance with relative slowness. The rest, eager, 
all their toils and privations forgotten, galloped off. 
Bob as usual with his friends, California Joe and 
Bomeo. They had started twenty minutes after 
receiving the news. 

**It makes me feel young again,** said California 
Joe. *'I don't know that I*m fond o* fightin* as a 
regular diet, but when I*m lookin* for a fight I*d just 
as soon find it as keep on lookin* for it till I froze 
to death.** 



A-HORSE WITH CUSTER 331 

Bob was serious. He had a sensitive, impression- 
able nature, and in Forsyth's great defense of the 
island in the Arickaree, he had seen what war could 
be. Still, he was relieved to know that they had 
found the Indians and that in all likelihood the 
campaign would come to an issue. He looked to his 
rifle, and felt of the pistol in its holster. 

Custer, in his eagerness, was at the very head, 
with Major Elliott and the two Osages, Little Beaver 
and Hard Eope. The Major had left a party of 
his troops on the trail that he had discovered, 
and Custer, turning to the southwest, galloped 
toward that point as fast as the deep snow would 
allow. It was now late in the afternoon, and the 
sun cast a glowing red tint over the white wilder- 
ness. It was weird, like a portent of great events 
and Bob felt, in every bone of him, that the time 
had come. 

California Joe and Eomeo, who had been exchang- 
ing low comments, sank into silence. The snow flew 
in showers beneath the rapid hoofs of the command, 
which left a broad, deep trail behind it, but the speed 
was not diminished. The sun, with a last blaze of 
red sank into the prairie, and then they struck the 
path of the Indian band. They found that the 
troops left there by Major Elliott had gone on, and 
they followed. 

The night was at hand, but it was not dark, and 
the white gleam of the snow helped also. Even had 
it been dark they could not have missed a road, 
broken through snow nearly two feet deep. Evi- 
dently the Cheyennes did not suspect the nearness 



332 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

of the white army, and California Joe and Borneo 
began to talk about surprising them. 

''The watdifulcst men in the world are caught off 
guard some time or other," said Joe, ''an' it may be 
our chance. " 

About 9 o'clock in the evening they overtook the 
detachment, left by Major Elliott, and now the whole 
fon^e was united, 800 strong, experienced, brave, on 
fire with zeal, and led by a great captain. But 
Custer, eager as he was to strike his evasive enemy, 
now became watchful and cautious. They had 
already come long and far, and he ordered his men 
to take a rest of an hour. 

**The General is right,'' said California Joe to 
Bob, who was now burning with impatience. **0f 
course, T know how it is. When you think you've 
got your game in range you want to shoot, but our 
horses are nigh pumped out, and we need to steady 
ourselves." 

''It is surely so," said Bomeo, twisting up the 
ends of his curly, black mustache. **It is well to 
have the (^alm nerves before you fight, and then to 
fight like a (^^ortoz or a Pizarro." 

The young Mexican, brave and courteous, a master 
of the craft of wood and plaiii, was a general favor- 
ite with the army, and now Bob watched him with 
interest and admiration, as he prepared for battle. 
After curling up his mustache in a satisfactory 
manner, Romeo carefully arranged the red silk 
handkerchief around his neck, and smoothed down 
his beautifully tanned buckskin hunting shirt and 
leggings. lie caught Bob's eye and said eamesfly: 



A-HOESE WITH CUSTEE 338 

"If I fall, I wish to fall like a gentleman, clad 
properly and with everything in order. It will be a 
great comfort to me. ' ' 

California Joe laughed softly. 

"Mighty little you'll know about it, Eomeo," he 
said, "but I ain't criticisin' you, though, by gum, 
you're the finest dandy I ever saw on these plains." 

Eomeo smiled in supreme satisfaction. 

"Ah, California Joe," he said, "you pay me the 
great compliment. Some day when I am rich I shall 
go far down to the City of Mexico. I shall wear 
the magnificent suit of red velvet, with a broad and 
flowing red silk sash around my waist. I shall have 
the broad-brimmed black hat, with a single immense 
red plume. Great jewels, diamond, ruby, sapphire, 
emerald, will glitter all over me like stars. The 
king of the bull fighters will be but a shadow beside 
me, and all the beautiful senoritas will be at my 
feet." 

"They'll be struck plum' blind by your splendor," 
said California Joe, grinning in admiration at the 
vivid picture that Eomeo had drawn. 

The two relapsed into silence, and Bob was silent 
with them. In fact, the whole army was silent, save 
for the occasional low words of a trooper, and the 
soft crunch of horses' feet in the deep snow. The 
men were dismounted now, that their horses might 
rest too, but they stood beside them and held the 
reins. 

The night was very cold, although Bob, in his 
excitement and anticipation, did not notice it. But 
on the eve of battle the feeling of unreality came 



334 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

over him again. It was a phantom army standing 
there in the icy moonlight on the vast, unpeopled 
plains, and he was a phantom himself. The cold 
increased, and the wind that came now and then, cut 
like a knife. An icy crust was forming on the snow. 

Custer gave the word to advance at ten o'clock, 
and a deep sigh ran through the whole army. But 
it was a sigh of relief ; it was like the unleashing of 
a hound, eager to move forward. The troopers 
sprang into the saddle and the stem command of 
silence was passed all along the line. No one knew 
how near the enemy might be. 

The two Osage scouts, Little Beaver and Hard 
Eope, led the way on foot, fully four hundred yards 
in advance, their moccasins making no sound on the 
snow, their brown figures flitting forward like 
ghosts. Then in a little group, came about a dozen 
more Osages, California Joe, Eomeo, the rest of the 
white scouts and Bob. About a third of a mile 
behind them, in order to keep the noise* of so many 
hoofs from being heard by the Lidians, rode the 
army, Custer at its head, with Major Elliott, Cap- 
tain Whittaker and other important officers beside 
him. 

They did not move very fast. The surface of the 
snow on the trail had frozen after the Indians had 
passed, and now it broke with a crackling sound, 
faint when one horse made it, but steady and insist- 
ent when eight hundred made it together. It was 
impossible to avoid it, and as the alert ears of the 
Cheyennes might hear it some distance, Caster did 
not dare to go faster than a walk. 




A-HORSE WITH CUSTER 335 

TMs crackling sound, at times almost a tinkle, 
was not unmusical, and it was soothing to Bob's 
excited senses. He was not appreHensive. He had 
full confidence in Custer and his army, and he was 
proud to be riding there in this group of brave and 
loyal scouts. 

They rode on, hour after hour, mile after mile, 
in the snowy desolation of the wilderness. The 
moonlight faded, brightened and faded again. lit- 
tle Beaver and Hard Eope still led with sureness 
and precision, keeping their distance of four hundred 
yards ahead of the others. At times, when the moon 
darkened, their figures seemed to fade away, and 
only the keen and accustomed eyes of the scouts saw 
them. But they were always there. 

*'It's a long trail,** whispered California Joe to 
Bob, *'but I think these Osages will take us to the 
end of it.** 

It was now far past midnight, and Bob responded 
in an excited whisper: 

*'LookI Little Beaver and Hard Eope have 
stopped ! * * 

The two Osages were standing motionless in the 
trail, but were looking back toward the little group 
of scouts, who rode forward quickly. 

**What is it?'* asked California Joe. 

**Me don't know,** replied Little Beaver in a soft 
tone, *^but me smell smoke.** 

Hard Eope nodded in confirmation. Bob sniffed, 
but could not smell anything. Neither could Cali- 
fornia Joe, nor Eomeo, nor any of the scouts. 
Custer, Wittaker, Elliott and other ofiicers came up, 



336 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

and they could not detect an odor, either. But tiiey 
did not lose confidence in the two Osages ; the won- 
derful keenness of their senses had been tested too 
often. When Custer himself questioned tHem the 
Osages still remained absolutely sure. 

*'Me smell smoke," repeated Little Beaver, and 
Hard Rope nodded again in confirmation. 

**If they say 'they smell it, they smell it," said 
Custer, *'and the 'Cheyennes are somewhere near. 
Now, Little Beaver, you and Hard Rope go on again, 
but Whittaker, you aiid Elliott caution the troop to 
be quieter than ever. Maybe we can strike the 
Cheyennes before they see us. The snow and the 
great cold will keep them close to their lodges." 

The slow advance was resumed, the two Osages 
once more becoming shadows that led silently on. 
Bob's heart began to beat a little livelier tan6. He 
was quite as confident as Custer that the Osages had 
made no mistake, and that the great moment was at 
hand. His own little group did not say a word, 
and Romeo, satisfied that his costume was correct 
in every detail for battle, ceased to preen. 

Little Beaver and Hard Rope decreased speed 
again. Bob saw the two shadows moving slowly, 
and yet more slowly, over the white snow, and soon 
they stopped, remaining upright, motionless, waiting 
for the group of scouts, which Custer and several 
of his officers had now joined, to come np. They 
were no longer shadows, but were now two bronze 
statues, silhouetted against the gleaming snow. The 
second stop was about a half mile from the first 
When Custer reached them. Little Beaver looking Txp 



■J 



A-HORSE WITH CUSTER 337 

said quietly and without any change of countenance : 

^*Me told you so r* 

He pointed, with a long brown forefinger, to a 
small, dark spot beside the trail, but well inside a 
patch of timber. Custer, his officers and Bob fol- 
lowed the pointing forefinger, and saw the embers 
of a small fire. It had never thrown out more than 
a faint smoke, but in the cold, absolutely pure air of 
the night, the two Osage trackers had smelt it at a 
distance of half a mile, and had identified it, without 
the shadow of a doubt in their own minds. 

*' Isn't it wonderful f whispered Bob to Cali- 
fornia Joe. 

''It's wonderful, an' it's true,'* California Joe 
whispered back. 

''What does this little fire mean!" asked Custer 
of the Osages. 

Little Beaver and Hard Rope looked around in 
the timber a while, before answering. Then they told 
Custer that they had reached the edge of ground 
used by the Cheyennes for herding their ponies. 
Beyond lay a considerable open space, a fine, large 
meadow when not covered by the snow, thickly sur- 
rounded on all sides by timber, hence making it easy 
for the boys to hold the ponies there. Some of the 
boys undoubtedly had built the fire for warmth, and 
the great Cheyenne village could not be more than 
two or three miles away. 

Custer drew a long, deep breath when Little 
Beaver told the terse tale, and the others also felt 
their blood leap. 



22 



CHAPTEE XXII 
THE BATTLE OF THE WASHITA 

Custer, always quick and decisive, instantly 
arranged his plan. He would go forward himself 
with the two Osage trackers and see, for the sake 
of absolute certainty, if the Cheyenne village was 
at hand. The others would follow very slowly. 
When he announced his plan, the general glanced at 
the group about him and caught Bob's appealing 
eyes. He knew very well what' it meant, and Bob's 
youth and the great efficiency that he had shown 
moved him. 

*'Well, come along,'' he said. "You have proved 
yourself a good boy and a useful one, and you may 
be of help now. ' ' 

Bob instantly rode forward by the general's side, 
and California Joe and Eomeo cast envious, but not 
jealous looks at him. Eomeo gave his mustache 
another and more ferocious twist, and then waved 
his hand to Bob, in a gesture of brief farewell and 
many good wishes. 

The two sages on foot, moved forward for the 
third time, the young general and the boy on horse- 
back following close behind, none of them speaking, 
and the footfalls of the horses making very little 
sound. They went forward about two miles, the 
road dipping down between ridges, and at the top 
of every ridge they stopped, both to look and to 

838 



«j 



THE BATTLE OP THE WASHITA 339 

listen. When they came to one a little higher than 
the others, Little Beaver, who was in advance, sud- 
denly crouched down on the snow, and Hard Eope, 
who was just behind him, at once did the same. The 
general and Bob stopped their horses. 

**What is it?" asked Custer in a whisper. 

** Heaps Injuns down there, *' replied Little 
Beaver, pointing toward a valley, which lay to their 
right, partly shut in by timber. Bob, whose eyes 
naturally keen, were trained now by experience, saw, 
through the timber, a great dark group of large 
animals. They were at least a half mile away, and 
he took them to be buffaloes. Custer, looking 
intently at them, was of the same opinion, and he 
turned again to Little Beaver. 

**Why do you think Indians are down there f he 
asked. 

**We heard dog bark," replied Little Beaver. 

Neither the general nor the boy had heard any- 
thing, but they already had ample proof of the 
wonderful acuteness of the Osage senses, and Custer 
knew that Little Beaver and Hard Rope were to be 
trusted absolutely. 

*' Suppose we go forward a little further," whis- 
pered the general. 

They advanced about a rod, and then stopped to 
listen. Presently both the general and the boy heard 
the faint sound of a dog's bark in the heavy timber 
to the right of the herd. ' ' Ah ! " uttered Custer softly, 
and then, following the bark, came a sound, singular 
for the time and place. It was a low tinMe, very 
soft and sweet, but penetrating in the still night. 



340 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

''That little bell on a pony,'' said Little Beaver, 
* ' and down there you see the great herd of Cheyenne 
horses. ' ' 

So that was what the general and the boy had 
mistaken for buffaloes! Not the slightest doubt 
could exist any longer. There were the Cheyenne 
ponies, and the Cheyenne village was bound to be 
close by. 

**Come Bob,'' said the general, **we'll go back now 
for the others. Little Beaver, you and Hard Rope 
stay here and watch." 

The two Osages, without a word, crouched down, 
remaining silent and motionless, while Custer and 
Bob rode back to the group that contained the other 
scouts and principal officers. The whole army had 
halted a few hundred yards back of this group. 
The officers took off their sabers and laid them on 
the snow that their rattling might not be heard, and 
rode back to the crest of the hill, where Little Beaver 
and Hard Rope had been left. Thence, they looked 
long at the herd, and also saw a few lights twinkling 
among the trees beyond. There the Osages located 
the Cheyenne village. 

All were convinced, and they rode back to the 
point where they had left their sabers, which they 
regained. Then they held a council, to which Bob 
and the scouts were admitted, a council between mid- 
night and morning, in the snow and ice of a vast 
wilderness. Custer decided to surround the village 
and attack at daylight. He divided his army into 
four detachments. Two moved off at once, making 
a circuit of several miles, in order to gain the far 



THE BATTLE OP THE WASHITA 341 

side of the village, where they were to attack at dif- 
ferent points. An hour before dawn the third 
should move up toward the right, where it was to 
charge at the signal. The fourth, under Custer him- 
self, remained on the hill, from which the discovery 
of the village had been made, and would attack from 
that point. Little Beaver, Hard Rope, Bob, Cali- 
fornia Joe and Romeo remained with Custer. 

Theirs was the hardest part, as they were com- 
pelled to sit absolutely quiet and wait. Bob had 
never felt such hours as these before, sitting on his 
horse in the darkness and in the cold, which was 
growing more intense, fearing at any moment that 
their presence would be discovered, and the alarm 
given, before the circle of steel was complete. The 
boy's hands grew stiff in his buckskin gauntlets, and 
the men, who were dismounted and standing beside 
their horses, were not permitted to stamp their feet 
to keep them warm, or to walk back and forth for 
the sake of circulation. Some of the officers, 
wrapped in huge overcoats, lay softly down on the 
snow and slept. But Bob had neither the ability, 
nor the wish to sleep. He looked steadily down into 
the valley, where the dark figures of the ponies were 
growing plainer, and several times he heard the 
sweet, penetrating tinkle of the bell, taken, doubtless, 
from the horse of some slaughtered emigrant. 

The Osages, under Little Beaver and Hard Rope, 
who were chiefs as well as incomparable trailers, 
collected in a little group on one side, under the 
low branches of a tree, and presently Bob learned 
from California Joe that they had become uneasy. 



342 HORSEMEN OP THE PIiAINS 

Now that the Cheyennes were found the Osages 
feared that, with their great force, they would be 
more than a match for Custer *s army. Custer 
learned of it and he did not upbraid them, but he 
whispered to California Joe: 

**Will the Cheyennes put up a big fight f 

Bob saw the weather-beaten face of the scout 
become very serious. 

**Yes,*' replied the veteran, "they will. You can 
depend on that, general. Mebbe we Ve bit oflf more'n 
we can chaw." 

"We'll see about that," said General Caster, 
firmly. 

"I'm with you to the end, general," said CaK- 
fomia Joe quietly. 

Very little was said after that, and the icy hours 
trailed slowly away. Bob saw afar in the east a 
faint, grayish tinge. The dawn was coming, and 
with it the attack. His heart gave a great leap. 
Custer awakened the oflficers who lay wrapped in 
their overcoats on the snow. They sprang to their 
feet, and all thought that they had been discovered 
by the Cheyennes, because they saw a sudden, 
beautiful light, as if from a great fire. 

"What on earth is it!" asked Bob in a whisper 
of California Joe. 

"Look! a star!" said Joe. 

It was a brilliant morning star, fleeing before the 
dawn, and, seen intensified and magnified through 
the atmosphere of the plains. In a moment it faded, 
and all understood. The Cheyenne village was still 
in ignorance. 



THE BATTLE OF THE WASHITA 343 

* * Forward ! ' ' said Custer, and the stiflfened figures 
of the men became elastic once more, as the blood 
bounded through their veins. They rode down the 
slope, and reached the outskirts of the great herd 
of ponies, which was stretched out, hundreds and 
hundreds. The dawn was growing stronger. 

Custer, Bob, California Joe and Eomeo were now 
in the lead. Just behind them, at Custer's command, 
came the mounted regimental band, the leader hold- 
ing the cornet to his lips. 

The tops of many tall white tepees rose out of the 
morning mists, and from many of these tops plumes 
of smoke shot up. But the presence of the army 
was still unknown to the Cheyennes. For once the 
cunning and craft of the white man, had outwitted 
the cunning and craft of the red. Bob could scarcely 
believe it. Every pulse in him was leaping wildly. 

Custer was turning in his saddle to give the leader 
of the band the word to play ** Garry o wen, ' ' which 
was to be the signal for attack, when a single rifle- 
shot came from the village. The Cheyennes, not 
dreaming of attack in such terrible weather, were 
lying close in their tepees, but one warrior now saw 
the coming foe, and fired. 

But the signal was given. Forth from the band 
came the famous, old air, loud, clear and sweet, 
singing over the whole village. Up sprang a sun of 
uncommon splendor, filling the valley with winter 
gold, gleaming across the skin lodges and on the 
tawny stream of the Washita which ran through the 
Cheyenne town. 

The men uttered a tremendous cheer, and from 



344 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

three points in the ring about the town came the 
answering cry. The other three detachments had 
come up at the exact time, and the circle of steel 
was complete. High above the band rose the fierce 
pealing note of a bugle, and then, with Custer wav- 
ing his sword aloft, and his long, yellow hair floating 
out under his hat, they charged the village, the great 
winter camp of the Cheyennes, containing fifteen 
hundred or two thousand warriors. 

But surprised, though they were, at the dawn of a 
winter morning, the Cheyennes, Dog Soldiers and 
all, fought with a courage worthy of their brave and 
powerful nation. The men rushed from the tepees, 
rifle in hand. Many of them sprang into the river, 
breaking the ice, and, standing in the water waist 
deep under the shelter of the banks, poured a deadly 
fire upon the advancing army, replying to the cheers 
of the cavalry with defiant shouts of their own. A 
small body, seventeen in number, leaped into a rocky 
depression, where they lay down, protected from the 
white fire, and sent in bullets rapidly. A formidable 
force reached a deep ravine, within the limits of the 
village, and the hail from their rifles was deadly. 
The women and children, perhaps having confidence 
that the white troops would not fire upon them, 
remained in the lodges and began singing the death 
song, a wild, wailing chant from hundreds of throats, 
that never ceased during all the fury and tumult of 
the battle, rising over everything like the solemn 
despair of a Greek chorus. 

Despite all the advantages of the surprise, the 
army of Custer was faced by a powerful and f onui- 



THE BATTLE OF THE WASHITA 345 

dable foe. The alert Cheyennes, trained by lives of 
incessant danger, now took advantage of every 
opportunity. In addition to those already in shel- 
ter, they hid behind trees, rocks and bushes, which 
;w^ere thick in the village, and added to the defensive 
fire which was now fast increasing in volume. At 
intervals they sent forth their defiant war-whoop. 

Bob, carried away by the excitement of the moment 
and the intensity of feelings so long held in leash, 
was shouting with the shouting cavalrymen, and 
urging his horse to a gallop. But a line of fire 
seemed to blaze directly into his face, as a thousand 
Cheyenne warriors pulled the trigger. He heard the 
whistle of bullets, the low cry of men, and the wild 
scream of horses as they were struck. He saw men 
plunge suddenly from the saddle and fall into the 
snow where they lay still. He saw horses without 
riders break from the line and gallop away in the 
smoke that was now rising fast, but he saw also the 
yellow hair and waving blade of Custer just in front 
of him, and he followed where the leader led. 

The first charge of nearly a thousand cavalry was 
irresistible, and the Cheyennes were driven in toward 
a common center. The circle of steel wrapped the 
village around, and closed tighter and tighter. 
Custer seized the lodges, and the women and chil- 
dren, who still kept up the terrible death chant, were 
prisoners, but the warriors were not. They were in 
great force, wherever cover could be found, and the 
troopers were falling under the bullets of the red 
marksmen. The huge cloud of smoke rising from 
so many rifles helped them. They knew every inch 



346 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

of the ground and the soldiers knew none of it. 
Their yells of defiance became yells of triumph 
because many of them now began to believe that they 
would not only drive off the white foe, but destroy 
him. 

**WeVe bit off a lot," Bob heard California Joe 
say, but the veteran showed no signs of discourage- 
ment, firing slowly and only when he had picked his 
target. Bob also fired, but he was confused by the 
great volume of sound, the shouting, the crash of 
the rifles, and the dense smoke that was now envelop- 
ing the whole village and making all things obscure. 
The snow was trodden into slush under the horses' 
feet, and particles of it kicked into his face stung 
like shot. More than once he thought that he had 
been hit by a bullet, only to fijid that it was a ball of 
snow or a piece of ice. 

He did not know, in all the confusion and 
obscurity, that the advance had ceased. The ring 
of steel seemed to have tightened as far as it would 
go. It had now met a body that would not yield. 
Bob felt a sinking sensation. Were they to be 
beaten, after having executed so complete a sur- 
prise? Then he heard Custer give an order to dis- 
mount, and he leaped from his saddle. Some of the 
men dropped to the rear, holding the reins of the 
horses, but Bob was not designated as one of thenL 
He remained in the front line, on foot now, feel- 
ing that he was better able thus to continue in the 
battle. 

** Sharpshooters 1" cried Custer, and he rapidly 
detailed men to pick off the small body of CheyeimeB 



THE BATTLE OF THE WASHITA 347 

who had taken refuge in the rocky depression, and 
were doing deadly execution. As long as these 
Indian marksmen stung their flank no battle could 
be won. 

Bob, California Joe and Bomeo were in this force, 
and Bob noted with surprise that the brave, young 
Mexican was still a dandy. His clothing seemed to 
have escaped all the snow and slush, and the pointed 
black mustache still curved up beautifully at either 
end. 

* * Down flat ! ' ' cried California Joe, and every man 
threw himself face forward in the snow which ahnost 
buried them. Then they began to creep toward the 
Cheyennes, holding their fire, while the battle whis- 
tled and thundered on either side of them. Bob was 
humane, but the odor of the smoke and burnt gun- 
powder entered his nostrils and he felt all the pas- 
sion of the hunter. For the time he was as eager as 
any of them to get at the Cheyennes in the rocky 
hollow. 

California Joe looked back at his creeping band. 

*' Don't any of you dare to pull trigger ^till I say 
the word, * ' he called, commandingly. 

Bob glanced along the line. All the faces were 
fierce and eager. The snow and the cold were for- 
gotten. The rifles were held well forward, ready 
for a shot when the time came. The rest of the 
battle, which was always increasing in volume and 
ferocity, was wholly forgotten by every one of them. 

They reached the side of a little knoll, and crawl- 
ing cautiously to its crest, they could see the heads 
of the Indians in the smoky hollow. Bob detected, 



348 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

through the film of smoke and vapor, the feathers 
of war-bomiets, and black eyes, as hot with the fire 
of battle as any of those in California Joe's band.) 

**Now,'' said California Joe, **lay low an' pick 
your men. ' ' 

Bullets struck among the Indians in the hollow, 
so long immune hitherto. Several of their best war- 
riors were slain before they knew whence the fire 
came, and then they turned their attention from the 
main army to this new danger. A deadly duel 
ensued, but the sharpshooters of California Joe 
were too much for the Cheyenne marksmen. Al-i 
though two or three of the whites were slain and 
several wounded, they never ceased to send bullets, 
aimed with a sure eye and firm hand, into the hollow. 
The Cheyennes at last looked around for flight, but 
they knew that the moment they rose from the hollow 
they would be swept away by the fire from the main 
army, so they stayed there, fighting the sharp- 
shooters of California Joe, and died where they lay 
to the last man. Their bodies, seventeen in number, 
were found among the rocks after the battle. Then 
California Joe and his band. Bob with them, tamed 
to other work. 

The main body of the troops, relieved of the ter- 
rible fire on their flanks, pressed farther in. The 
white sharpshooters from all sides poured a perfect 
storm of bullets into the ravine, where the big Indian 
force lay. The Cheyennes there stood it long, but 
broke at last. They leaped to their feet and ran up 
the ravine, leaving half a hundred dead behind them. 
They renewed their fire from other points, while that 



-i^ 



THE BATTLE OF THE WASHITA 349 

of the warriors hidden under the banks of the river 
had never ceased for a moment, and the doubtful 
battle still surged to and fro. 

It was now ten o'clock, and the combat was three 
hours old. The brilliant sun now and then made its 
way through the clouds of smoke and mist rising 
from the snow, and in one of these rifts Bob saw 
Indians collecting on a knoll below the village. He 
instantly pointed them out to General Custer, who 
viewed them with great alarm, although he did not 
let his face show it. If a second strong force was 
coming up, could his men withstand them? 

At that moment Romeo ran up and explained the 
presence of the warriors on the knoll. He knew a 
dozen Indian languages, and he had learned from a 
squaw in a lodge that only two or three miles below 
them was another great Indian village occupied 
by Arapahoes under their head chief. Little Raven, 
Kiowas, under their head chief Satanta, and some 
Comanches and Apaches who would undoubtedly 
come to the relief of their hard-pressed brethren, 
the Cheyennes. 

Bob, who now remained close to Custer, as an 
aide, heard the words, and he knew their full import. 
The combat with one Indian army had been fierce 
enough, what would it be with two 1 But he did not 
feel any deep depression. The excitement of the 
moment would not permit. He merely watched the 
General to see what he would do. 

Custer knew the value of time. Once more the 
bugle sounded the charge, and the circle of steel 
pressed in with a force that was irresistible. The 



350 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

riflemen leaped down into the river and cleared out 
the Indians lurking under the bank. The four 
detachments, charging with the greatest fire, met in 
the center of the village, and the Cheyennes were 
beaten before their kinsmen had made up their minds 
to attack. 

At this critical moment. Major Bell, the quarter- 
master, cutting his way through the Indian lines, 
arrived with a great supply of fresh ammunition. 
A tremendous cheer greeted him, and, with replen- 
ished belts the army wheeled to meet the second 
Indian force. 

Custer was thorough. Two hundred of his men 
were detailed to tear down the lodges and set them 
on fire, first having brought out the women and chil- 
dren. The task was quickly done, and a vast colunm 
of smoke and fire shot up where the jCheyenne village 
had been. Outside, the squaws and children kept 
up the terrible wailing death chant, that had never 
been broken for an instant. 

But the battle itself sank for a few moments, 
while the white army faced the new foe, who was 
gathering his forces for the attack. California Joe 
brought word that the head chief. Black Kettle, had 
been found among the slain. Though not as great as 
Boman Nose, he had been an able chief and a valiant 
warrior, and he had died fighting for the htmting 
grounds of his people. Bob had caught two 
glimpses of a white man who he was sure was 
Carver, but the wily freebooter disappeared each 
time in the confusion. 

When the great fire from the burning tepees rose. 



THE BATTLE OF THE WASHITA 351 

the rage of the Indians rose with it. Those CHey- 
ennes, who had broken through the lines and the 
Kiowas, Arapahoes and others outside, rushed for- 
ward to a new attack. The deep snow in the village 
was trampled into a slush, red for wide spaces. 
The smoke hung in heavy banks, which a stray wind 
now and then lifted, and revealed the two armies, 
white and red, firing along a long, curving line, 
creeping rather than standing, but always coming 
closer. 

Bob was thoroughly possessed by the fury of the 
conflict. He had abandoned his horse, long since, 
to the little body of troopers detailed for this 
service, and keeping with California Joe and Romeo, 
he was at the point in the line, where the Indian 
attack was fiercest. But Custer was not waiting for 
the Indians. He also was attacking, pressing for- 
ward his men who now fought on foot, taking 
advantage, in Indian fashion, of every shelter 
afforded by rock or bush or swell of the ground. 
Meanwhile, he held many of the Cheyenne warriors 
prisoners, all their women and children, and a herd 
of fifteen hundred ponies. 

Noon came, and despite the cold, the men felt 
parched and burnt from the long struggle which was 
yet far from a decision. Another hour passed, and 
then another, and both sides stood firm, neither able 
to advance further. Custer now was consumed with 
anxiety for his wagon train, with its escort of eighty 
men, which he knew must be coming up, and which 
was likely to come straight into ambush. His own 
losses, moreover, were heavy. The gallant Major 



352 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

Elliott and nineteen men had been ambushed and all 
killed. Many more were killed elsewhere, and there 
was a great swarm of the wounded, although all of 
the latter, who could stand, yet fought. 

*'Will we beat *em, Joe? Will we beat 'emf 
gasped Bob, who was covered from head to foot with 
snow and mud. 

The old scout paused a half minute before reply- 
ing, and then he said very gravely : 

**I said we'd bit off a lot, mebbe more'n we could 
chaw. We've got iron jaws an' we've been chawin' 
hard an' long, but I don't know yet. By the great 
horn spoon. Bob, them Injuns fight well, as they 
gen 'ally do I We don't know what would have hap- 
pened if old Roman Nose had been alive an' kickin'." 

California Joe was right. The North American 
Indian, always a formidable foe, full of courage, skill 
and tenacity, was fully justifying on that day his 
title as a great fighter. The warriors, although sur- 
prised in their tepees, had held a powerful white 
force, led by a great captain, at bay for more than 
eight hours. 

But Custer was now preparing for a supreme 
effort. The mellow notes of the bugle sang over the 
desperate field, and the whole army was quickly 
formed into a hollow square with the prisoners in 
the center. It was no longer necessary to hold the 
Cheyenne village, because there was no Cheyenne 
village to hold. As soon as the square was complete 
the bugle sang again, and then the army rushed with 
its full weight upon the second Indian force, miaiiy 
of the remounted cavalry charging, saber in hand. 



THE BATTLE OF THE WASHITA 353 

The Indians fired one volley, two volleys, three 
volleys, and then, as the troop still came on, they 
could stand no more. They broke and fled in all 
directions, leaving their dead behind them. Custer, 
waving his sword, did not permit his men to stop, 
but continued the chase, pursuing the Indians to the 
second village, taking that also, and scattering Chey- 
ennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and all the rest in one 
wild rout. 

The Cheyenne nation was practically destroyed, 
but it went down to ruin fighting with a valor 
worthy of any race. The great battle of the Washita 
was over, and the Indians had suffered the greatest 
defeat in their history beyond the Mississippi, but 
the white army was exhausted. The men threw 
themselves down among the tepees in the second 
village, and some of them sank into a stupor. The 
surgeons were busy with many others, and the rest 
still stood to their arms. 

Bob also felt this great temptation to sink down 
and lapse into forgetfulness, but he resisted it, and 
looked with a sort of dim wonder back over the great 
trail by which they had come. He saw the smoke 
still rising from the Cheyenne village, and here and 
there in the trodden slush dark spots that he knew 
to be bodies. On the distant hills stood brown 
figures, those of the defeated Indians, but they no 
longer fought. They were merely looking sadly at 
the scene of desolation and ruin. 

Not a shot was fired now, and the silence, after 
such a continuous crash, was heavy and oppressive. 
The huge bank of smoke, made by so much firing, 

23 



.354 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

lifted, bnt coils and eddies of vapor still rose from 
the ground. The snn in all the brilliancy of mid- 
afternoon, presently scattered the smoke entirely, 
and poured down a torrent of vivid, golden light that 
disclosed all the terrible field, the trodden snow, the 
fallen men, white and red, the slain horses, and the 
colunms of smoke that still rose from the burning 
ruins of the first village. 

"Well, weVe won, boy,'* said the voice of Cali- 
fornia Joe in Bob's ear, **but, by the great horn 
spoon, we know we've had a fight. It was a case of 
pitch and toss for about eight hours, an' I don't 
min' tellin' you now. Bob, that I thought more than 
once we'd be singin' our last little death songs. 
Even Romeo here has lost all the gilt off his clothes." 

It was true. The attire of the young Mexican 
was stained in many places with snow and mud, and 
in one with red. He took a look of dismay at him- 
self, blushed through the olive of his cheeks, and 
hastily began to make repairs. 

Bob turned away from the scene up the river, the 
great trail of battle that they had made. He did not 
know which way he was going, but he was tired of 
looking upon the marks of combat, and the fallen. 
He was weak, and he saw dimly. His eyes were 
stinging with the smoke, and the lodges, the soldiers 
and the wintry landscape wavered before him. Sud- 
denly he fell to trembling, and California Joe, who 
was watching him, clapped a strong hand on his 
shoulder. 

**Hold up, Bob, my boy I'' he cried. "Here, come 
in this lodge and sit down a bit!" 



THE BATTLE OF THE WASHITA 355 

They entered a lodge of buffalo skin. Everything 
showed signs of a hasty flight. There were two 
couches of buffalo robes undisturbed. Dried herbs 
hung from the skin walls, and in one comer was a 
heap of jerked meat. In another lay an old musket. 

**Just you spread yourself out here for a few 
minutes, '^ said Joe, indicating one of the couches or 
pallets, and the boy, without protest, stretched him- 
self on the buffalo skins. Then the dimness passed 
away from his eyes, and his nerves ceased to tremble. 
Oh, the deep, intense luxury of rest at such a time I 
Moreover, the battle and its ruin were hidden from 
him. He saw only the walls of the tepee and Cali- 
fornia Joe, sitting on the other pallet and hugging 
his knees in pleasure. 

**This ain't the finest house in the world," said 
California Joe, **but I'm glad to be here, come safe 
through what I reckon was the terriblest Injun battle 
ever fought. '* 

Bob was fully restored in fifteen minutes, and then 
he sprang up from the pallet. California Joe joined 
him, and they went outside. The sun had already 
passed the zenith of the quick winter day, and far 
off the twilight was darkening, while the cold deepen- 
ed. The soldiers had lighted fires, and were 
beginning to cook their scanty supplies of food. 
Eomeo was already helping them, and Bob and Cali- 
fornia Joe joined in the task. 

The fires brought warmth, comfort and cheer, and 
the steadily darkening twilight hid the sanguine 
field that they had left behind them. To the right 
the women and children and the captured warriors 



356 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

were gathered in a dark mass with troopers, rifle on 
thigh, riding incessantly abont them. 

Bob, now that his strength and spirits were back, 
was assailed by a fierce, ravening hunger, and when 
the time came he ate like one who had not tasted 
food in a week. Then he drank cupful after cupful 
of black coffee. He was ashamed of himself pres- 
ently, but when he saw that the others were doing 
the same, he resumed his congenial task. 

Night came, clothing the valley, but not obscuring 
the circle of red light where the fires burned. 
Custer was still extremely anxious about his wagon 
train, and at ten o 'clock he took up the march again, 
despite the darkness. But before going he set fire 
to the second village also, and it burned for a long 
time, a pillar of light behind them. 

The march was kept up for four hours, when they 
encamped again in the valley of the Washita, and 
Bob, wrapped in a coat, slept on the snow till dawn. 
He rose to see another brilliant day, and shortly 
after they resumed the march a dark line appeared 
on the hills. Custer was the first to see it, through 
his glasses, and he gave a little cry of joy. 

It was the wagon train, coming up through the 
deep snow, and its very slowness had saved it. Had 
it been able to move faster the Indians about Custer 
would certainly have destroyed it. 

The whole army advanced swiftly, met the train, 
and there was great rejoicing and congratulation. 
Ample supplies of food, ammunition, medicines and 
fresh clothing were at hand, and the spirits of the 
men rose to the zenith. 



CHAPTER XXm 

THE LONE SEARCH 

The army, still holding its captives, moved slowly 
and encamped again the second day on the banks of 
the Washita. Despite the slain and the large num- 
ber of wounded, it was in excellent condition, and 
since the wagon train had come, it would have been 
in condition to fight another battle had there been 
need of it. But there was no need. The power of 
the Cheyennes was shattered, and they would not be 
able to raise their heads again for years. They 
would never be able to raise them as high as they 
had once held them. 

But for lone, white wanderers, or those in small 
numbers, the plains would be more dangerous than 
ever throughout the winter, because the scattered 
Cheyennes, Arapahoes and Kiowas, without villages 
now, would be wandering everywhere, eager for 
revenge. Yet, the knowledge of these facts did not 
keep down a resolution which was forming in Bob's 
breast. 

He must find Sam Strong and his old comrades. 
Two buffalo hunters who came in that morning 
reported rumors of a little band of troopers, hidden 
somewhere among the hills to the southwest. Bob 
believed from the first that these were his friends, 
and he was quite sure now that if he had not come 
with Custer he would never have obtained this news. 

857 



358'%. HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

He was encouraged, too, by what he considered a 
good omen. Among the spoil of arms, picked up m 
the Cheyenne village, was the rifle that he had 
inherited from his father. Bob happened to see it 
in the hands of a trooper, who readily .exchanged 
it for the weapon that the boy carried. Snch omens 
as this decided him. He would brave all dangers, 
and start at once. 

He went to General Custer and told him of his 
plan. The young commander looked around at the 
vast wilderness, deep in snow, and infested with 
wandering warriors burning with hate of the white 
man. Then he looked at the brave youth for whom 
he felt a real affection. 

** Don't do it, Bob, lad," he said. "This may be 
a false rumor. Besides, if your friends are in hiding 
somewhere, it is likely that they will come out safe 
in the spring. I'm afraid that inside of a week 
your scalp would be hanging at the belt of some 
vengeful Cheyenne. Stay with me. You have the 
making of a good soldier, and you shall be an officer 
on my staff. ' ' 

Bob flushed with pleasure, but his resolution was 
not shaken. 

'*I thank you. General, I thank you from my 
heart,'* he said, "but I belong with these men whom 
I wish to seek. I'm used to the wilderness now, and 
I know its ways. I must find them." 

Custer glanced at him and read his spirit in Ids 
firm eyes and chin. 

"If you feel that way then you must go,** lie said. 
"Remember that the horse on which you ride is your 



THE LONE SEARCH 359 . 

ft 

own, and take all the ammnnition and other supplies 
you can carry. The United States Government owes 
you at least that much. ' * , 

Bob thanked him. The general gave his hand the 
warm clasp of sincere friendship, and turned away 
to his tent. Bob speedily made ready, and dozens 
of the men, who had fought with him in battle, came 
to tell him good-by. Many believed that it would be 
a good-by forever. 

Most notable among these were California Joe 
and Romeo. The young Mexican was again the 
perfect Spanish dandy, fit to thrum on the guitar 
under the window of some senorita, far down in the 
warm valleys of Mexico. Never had he ruffled it 
more bravely. The plume in his hat had taken a 
fresh curve, the red sash around his waist was 
looped in jauntier folds, and not a speck of mud or 
snow disfigured his velvet costume. 

*^6ood-by, Senor Bob,** he said, **I am sorry to 
see you go. You have fought with Senor Joe and 
me in the great battle of the Washita. You would 
do better to stay and be a soldier. Ah, Senor Bob, 
you lose your life alone on the great plains, and it is 
not good.'* 

Genuine tears stood in the eyes of the emotional, 
but brave, Romeo. Bob was grateful to him. 

*'I shall never forget the time when we fought 
side by side, Romeo, * * he said, * * and I hope that you 
won't either.** 

*^What you want to do. Bob,'* said California Joe 
gruffly to hide his Anglo-Saxon feelings, *4s to keep 
a mighty good lookout, an* if you see any human 



360 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

bein' that acts suspicious, shoot first. Then, after 
you Ve put a bullet through his head, ask him whether 
he's a friend or not.'* 

Bob laughed, partly to hide his own feelings, and 
then took the reins of his horse in hand. At that 
moment, two men rode up and greeted him joyously. 
One was old and the other young. They were Pete 
Trudeau and Jack Stillwell. Bob was f idl of delight 
to see them again and he took their coming as a 
second good omen. 

**And so. Bob, boy, you've been distinguishing 
yourself again, '* said Stillwell. **Not satisfied with 
being with Forsyth, in the great fight at the island, 
you've come with Custer and licked the whole Chey- 
enne nation.*' 

^ ^ I did just the same. Jack, that a thousand others 
did,'* said Bob. **We had to fight for all we were 
worth, or be wiped out. There wasn't any choice." 

*'I believe you, from what I've heard,'* said Still- 
well admiringly. **You're having your young life, 
Bob, crowded with about as much action as it can 
hold." 

But both he and Trudeau looked very grave when 
they heard of Bob's expedition. They did not 
believe that he could ever succeed, and tried to dis- 
suade him, but, as before, he was unshakable in his 
resolution. Nevertheless, he waited an hour or 
two, as they were the bearers of dispatches, and 
returning, would ride with him some miles. Bob 
was glad of their companionship even for a short 
distance. 

When they were ready the three rode away, the 



THE LONE SEARCH 361 

boy in the center, and the soldiers knowing why he 
went, gave three great cheers for the brave youth. 
He looked back, lifted his cap in reply and let his 
eyes linger for a few moments on the scene out- 
spread before him, the line of wagons, the files of 
soldiers, the dark mass of captives, and encircling 
all, the white world of untouched snow, which seemed 
to stretch away into infinity. He had found many 
good friends among these soldiers. He knew the 
great work that they were doing in the obscurity of 
the West, and he hoped to meet them again. 

The three glanced back several times from the 
crest of the swells, and it was some time before they 
completely lost sight of the army, but it sank into 
the plain at last, and they were alone with the snow. 
After that they rode on more than an hour in silence. 
Then Stillwell asked: 

*^What are your plans. Bob?*' 

*^I*m going to ride straight for the range of big 
hills down there, and I believe that 1*11 find Sam 
and the boys among them. I've food enough for 
two weeks, and I've got two big blankets rolled up 
here on my saddle.*' 

**The blankets will do against the cold,** said 
Trudeau, **an* I don't think you'll lack for food. 
You're sure to run against buffalo long before the 
two weeks are up. I'm hopin* you won*t run 
against Cheyennes too.** 

*^I'm willing to take the chances,** said Bob 
bravely, and they rode on another hour in silence. 
Then the time for parting came, as they must go 
toward the east, while he went southward. Thejr 



362 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

shook handsy said a few words only, although these 
were very real and very earnest, and then a single 
horseman rode through the snow into the south. 
The other two stopped presently, and sitting motion- 
less, watched him until he was out of sight. 

Bob, at the first parting from these good friends, 
felt an overwhelming loneliness. That was why he 
did not look back, but as he crossed swell after swell, 
and became used to the desolation, his spirits 
returned. He was strong and enduring. He had 
passed through great dangers. He had come wholly 
unharmed from the thick of two long and desperate 
battles, and one who had been so fortunate might 
hope for much. He had a good horse under him, 
a good rifle at his back, and he knew wild life. What 
more could he ask? 

The boy's spirits rose fast, coming up from 
reserves of great strength in his nature. He 
whistled a tune, the gay lilt of which was heard only 
by himself, and his horse, sharing his high courage, 
raised his head and neighed once. The cold had 
moderated somewhat, and the snow was no longer 
covered with a crust of ice. The going was fairly 
easy, but Bob did not urge the horse beyond a walk, 
knowing that he must husband his strength, as 
without him, he would be lost on the great snowy 
plains. 

He maintained his course throughout the day, 
always scanning the horizon with great care, for 
wandering bands of the defeated Indians. But his 
great safeguard lay in the fact that the simlight 
was intense and brilliant, and he could see a horse- 



THE LONE SEARCH 363 

man miles away. Despite his vigilance, no black 
speck appeared npon the horizon, and he rode all 
throngh the brilliant afternoon without interruption. 
Towards night he began to think of a place for a 
camp, and marked a dark line, on his left, which his 
skilful eye told him was trees. 

He turned his horse toward the timber and 
approached cautiously. While the trees would 
afiford shelter for him, they would afford shelter for 
the Indians also, and one must choose his bed well 
before sleeping in it. Bob relied to a certain extent 
upon his horse, a trained army campaigner, likely to 
shy at the presence of Indians, but the horse gave 
no sign of alarm, and just at the coming of the twi- 
light, he entered a fine grove of oak, ash and cotton- 
wood, which stretched for an indefinite distance 
along both sides of a broad but shallow creek. The 
plains could offer no more inviting place for a camp, 
and to one as hardy as he, it seemed good. The 
creek was frozen over to the depth of several inches, 
but he broke the ice and drank and his horse drank 
after him. The snow among the trees was not deep, 
and Bob scraped away large places, revealing grass 
yet alive, of which the horse ate eagerly, then pushed 
his nose through the snow on his own account for 
more. 

Having provided first for the faithful animal that 
carried him, the young horseman then provided for 
his own comfort. He found a little secluded arbor, 
as it were, in the thickest clump of trees and cleared 
away all the snow. By this time the sun was gone 
^nd it was quite dark, with the cold increasing fast 



364 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

Satisfied that a little smoke wonld not be seen in the 
night, he gathered a heap of dead wood and lighted 
it with matches. He never suffered the blaze to 
rise mnch, but it threw out a great heat which 
warmed him through and through, and gave him a 
feeling of comfort, even luxury. 

The grass around the fire thawed and then dried. 
The boy drew pemmican and army biscuits from his 
stores, and sitting on one of the blankets, with the 
other wrapped around him, he ate and felt a great 
content. The horse satisfied after his grazing, also 
came over and stood by the fire, basking in the heat. 
His great, mild eyes like those of the boy expressed 
content. 

Bob knew that he was taking a certain risk by 
sleeping there without a sentinel, but it must be 
taken if he would preserve the strength to continue 
his long search. By and by he put out the fiire, 
smothering it in snow, and then searched the woods 
for some distance, in either direction. There was 
no sign of an enemy, and coming back to the dry 
place in the thick shadow of the clump, he rolled 
himself from head to foot in the two blankets. He 
stretched himself at full length on the ground, and 
luxuriously contemplated the stars for a few min- 
utes. Then he dropped into one of the deepest and 
pleasantest sleeps of his life, never stirring imtil the 
daylight came. 

He rode all that day slowly, but without a break, 
eating his brief noonday meal from the saddle. It 
turned somewhat warmer and the snow began to 
melt, making it more difficult for his horse on account 



THE LONE SEARCH 365 

of the deep slush. He camped the second night on 
the open prairie, and only his blankets saved him 
from the raw, wet cold. Toward the middle of the 
third morning he saw a dark, bine line which one less 
experienced might have taken for a low cloud, but 
which he knew to be the foot-hills. Once again his 
pulses took a great leap. His comrades, these men 
who had done so much for him, would surely be 
there. 

He was anxious to urge his horse to greater speed, 
but he knew that he must spare him, in all that snow 
and slush, and they went on at the same slow, steady 
walk. The air was so thin and so intensely bright 
that the blue line did not seem to grow any stronger 
or more distinct. But Bob was not discouraged. He 
knew that the hills were yet far ofif, and that he 
could not possibly reach them until late the next 
day. 

In the afternoon he saw dark, moving specks which 
came nearer, and which proved to be buffaloes, 
nosing through the snow for the short grass which 
winter had not killed. They were uncommonly 
tame, indicating that they had been hunted but little, 
from which Bob drew a cheerful omen, feeling sure 
that very few Indians, perhaps none, had passed 
that way. It was pleasant also to see his dinner on 
the hoof, if the supplies he carried should become 
exhausted. 

He was fortunate enough to find another creek, 
and more thick covert of trees for his third night, 
but he did not build a fire. He had an idea that, as 
he approached the hills, he was more likely to be in 



366 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

the vicinity of wandering Indians in search of shelter 
and refuge. 

He fastened the horse to a bush in the very darkest' 
shadow, and lay down himself, under another bush, 
where in the night he was not visible to the best eye 
ten yards away. It was not very cold now, and with 
one blanket beneath him, and the other wrapped 
around his body, he was warm enough. He did not 
fall asleep for at least an hour and he woke again 
about midnight. The night had now cleared and a 
full silver moon and many bright stars were shining. 
The horse was standing peacefully by his bush, and 
for all Bob knew, was asleep on his feet. 

The boy would have gone back to sleep also, but 
his roving eye caught a pin-point of light far down 
the stream. He remembered the brilliant morning 
star that they had seen just before the dawn at the 
Battle of the Washita, and he believed at first that 
he was now deceived in the same way, but a longer 
look convinced him that it was a real earthly light, 
probably the flame from a fire. 

It might be Sam and the others, and for a moment 
his heart beat high at the thought, but the next 
moment, cold reason told him he must be wrong. It 
was not at all likely that they would yet come down 
into the plain. 

The boy, knowing that a fire at such a time and 
place must have some great significance, resolved 
to investigate it. He saddled the horse in case he 
should have to take a sudden flight, rolled up the 
blankets tightly, and tied them to the saddle. He 
patted the intelligent animal on the nose and said 



THE LONE SEAECH 367 

in a whisper that he would soon be back ; the horse 
might not understand the words, but he would the 
stroke of the hand. Then, with his finger on the 
trigger of his rifle, he stole down among the trees 
toward the light. 

It was a windless, quiet night. The restless airs 
of the plains were still for once, and the leafless 
boughs of the trees did riot move. The creek 
broadened as he advanced, and seemed to have a 
fair depth. It was filled everywhere with ice, broken 
up by the thaw, and moving slowly. The forest 
seemed to extend back at least a quarter of a mile, 
on either side. 

Bob kept his eyes fixed on the light, which burned 
steadily and grew larger as he advanced. He was 
quite sure now that it was the flame from a fire. He 
had gone about a half mile, when he stopped sud- 
denly, and despite all his experience and self con- 
trol shuddered violently. 

The boughs of the trees above his head contained 
many long, dark objects, and he knew what they 
were. He had come to an ancient Indian burying 
ground. Perhaps the mummies swinging from the 
boughs were the very ancestors of the warriors who 
had fallen on the Arickaree and tHe Washita, and 
this most certainly was not a good omen. 

He steadied his nerves and continued his advance 
toward the light, coming near enough now to know 
absolutely that it was the flame from a camp-fire. It 
was obscured, at moments, by dark figures passing 
before it, and these figures must be men. Many 
would have turned back now, but Bob's resolve to 



368 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

see who these men were increased in strength. 
There was the barest of chances that they might be 
Sam Strong and his comrades, and every probability 
that they were hostile Indians. In either case he 
wished to know. 

Bob stalked the camp-fire. The snow was so soft 
now that it gave back no sound at all, and there 
were bushes in plenty. He was soon near enough 
to see that the camp-fire was large, surrounded by 
perhaps thirty men, and as he lay down in the snow 
and drew his body yet closer, he perceived that three 
or four of these men were white, the rest being 
Indians, mostly of the Cheyenne nation, but with 
four or five Arapahoes and Kiowas. 

The boy, lying in the dark, and with his body 
almost covered by the snow, saw that the principal 
figure among the white men was that of Juan 
Carver. He sat where the full light of the fire fell 
upon his somber face, and in the luminous glow, he 
looked very cruel and very powerful. Evidently he 
had come out of the battles without a wound. 

The three other white men belonged to the band 
with which Carver had expected to take the beaver 
skins from Sam Strong and his comrades. The 
rest, Bob supposed, had either been killed or had 
wandered away. The fire threw out much heat, and 
Indians and white men were grouped about it, 
enjoying the warmth. Bob surmised that they had 
made a night march, and that the fire had just been 
built. Carver was talking to one of the white men, 
and judging from the deference paid to him by both 
white and red, he was the leader of the party. 



THE LONE SEARCH 369 

Bob, feeling secure in his snowy ambush was 
extremely anxious to hear what was being said, and 
he gradually crept closer. All the horses were on 
the far side of the flames and there was no danger 
from them. He was soon within fifteen or twenty 
yards of the fire, lying among the thick bushes. 
There he had the reward of skill and daring. 
Carver and another of the white men finally rose, 
walked toward an open space in which their blankets 
were spread, but did not cease their talk. 

Bob did not catch all the words, but he caught 
enough to make a connected story. Carver and the 
Indians, refugees from the Washita, also had heard 
the rumors that a party of trappers were hiding in 
the hills, with a rich store of furs, waiting a chance 
to get through to civilization. Bob heard Carver 
twice say the word *' Strong '* and he could not 
doubt that his comrades were beyond the low, blue 
line that marked the beginning of the hills. Carver 
and this strong band were seeking them also, and 
now his obligation to reach them was all the greater. 

He remained quite still, while Carver and most 
all the others lay down to sleep, in a circle about 
the fire, leaving three Indians and one white man 
to keep the watch. Then he began his slow retreat. 
He was so careful about it, that it was twenty min- 
utes before he was well beyond the circle of the 
firelight, and could safely rise to his feet. But 
after that he sped back to his horse, mounted, rode 
out upon the plain, and making a wide curve around 
the hostile camp, advanced as swiftly as the snow 
would allow, toward the hills. 

S4 



CHAPTEE XXIY 
A MIRACLE 

Bob turned back into the timber towards morn- 
ing. He deemed it wiser to risk a chance of 
encounter with Indians there than to remain in the 
bright sunlight on the open plain, where any one * 
could see him for miles. Besides a wary man, 
alone in the timber, would be likely to see an enemy 
first and there would always be a chance to hide. 

He took his breakfast in the saddle and as he 
advanced, the snow became thinner, melting rapidly 
under the rays of a fairly warm sun. None of it 
was left on the boughs, and the creek was beginning 
to rise, under the influence of the innumerable 
streams that poiired into it from the thaw. Bob 
surmised that this creek entered the hills, passed 
through into the mountains, and probably flowed 
into some river on the other side. Its valley offered 
a path, easy for his horse, and all the more likely 
to take him to his comrades, who would surely seek 
some warm valley, containing flowing water. 

The dim, blue line of the day before now became 
high and dark, a ridge of hills, shaggy with pine and 
cedar, and beyond them were white summits and 
crests, which showed where the ridges sloped up 
into mountains. Bob was sure that he could reach 
them before dark, and he was equally sure that Car- 
ver and the Cheyenne band were far behind 

370 



* 



A MIKACLE S7l 

That night's start of six or seven hours was a greats 
thing, and might prove the salvation of more than 
one man. 

At noon he gave his horse a rest of more than an 
hour, bathed his face and hands in the icy creek, and 
walked vigorously up and down, in order to take the 
stiffness from his limbs, caused by so much riding. 
When he sprang into the saddle again it was with 
renewed vigor. Throughout the afternoon he saw 
great quantities of game, bufifalo and deer, which 
had sought the shelter of the forest, and many 
wolves lurking about, in the hope of pulling down 
the weak. The wolves often were so bold, or were 
so hard driven by hunger, that he was tempted 
to take a shot at some particularly ferocious haunter 
of the timber, but he did not dare, because of those 
whom he knew to be behind him. 

At dusk he reached the first slopes, and he was 
glad to see that the plains and cedars were very 
dense, but with a fairly good trail leading into the 
hills by the side of the creek, which was now a foam- 
ing torrent. He continued as long as the light made 
travel safe, and then turned aside into a narrow val- 
ley like a cleft, which cut through the hills. He 
did not know how far it went or to what it would 
lead him, but he could not afford to camp beside 
the creek, because the Cheyennes would certainly 
come that way. He went fully two miles, and then 
he was somewhat surprised to find the trail leading 
into a wide valley whicK, as nearly as he could make 
out in the moonlight, seemed to be two or three miles 
square. 



372 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

It was now about midnight and thoroughly 
exhausted with twenty-four hours of riding, watch- 
ing and supremest tension, he stopped among the 
trees that fringed the valley, tethered his horse^ 
leaving him saddled, took the usual refuge among 
his blankets, and in five minutes was asleep. 

Bob's awakening was sudden and alarming. He 
heard a terrified neigh and sprang to his feet just 
in time to see his horse break the lariat, and gallop 
off wildly down the valley. All this he saw through 
a great, white veil, because the snow was pouring 
down as if the bottom of the very heavens had 
dropped out. He also saw rushing directly upon 
him a great dark, heaving mass, a herd of buffaloes 
in a panic. 

Bob's action was partly due to quickness of mind 
and partly to impulse. He had slept with his rifle, 
rolled in the blankets beside him, and when he 
sprang to his feet it was still in his hands. Now, 
with the blankets still hanging about his shoulders, 
he ran swiftly to one side, endeavoring to secure the 
slope on the right. It was fortunate for him that 
he was strong and active, as the need of speed was 
heavy upon him. It seemed to him that he felt the 
breath of the leading bulls on the back of his neck, 
and the thunder of their hoofs was a deafening roar 
in his ears. He slipped once on the first slope, but 
remembering at the same time to cling to his rifle 
and blankets, regained his feet and ran, with all his 
might, reaching the crest, as the black herd thim- 
dered over the place where he had been. 

The buffaloes seemed to be frantic with terror, 



A MIRACLE 373 

either of the storm or some force behind them, and 
they plunged, with irresistible force, down the narrow 
ravine into the valley. The weaker members of the 
herd, driven to the outside, were pushed up the slopes, 
and Bob found them coming dangerously near to him. 
For further protection he climbed a huge oak tree and 
sat down in a low fork. There he was in no danger of 
being trampled, although he might freeze to death. 

He made himself as easy as he could in the fork, 
drew the blankets as closely as possible around his 
body, and watched the buffaloes go by. The buf- 
falo is subject to panic, and he believed now that 
they had been attacked somewhere else by Indians, 
possibly by the warriors who were with Carver, and 
that the sudden coming of so great a snowstorm 
had added to their terror. 

It was not a large herd, two or three thousand, 
perhaps, and they were not long in passing. Bob 
watched the last big, black form disappear in the 
driving veil of snow, and then he took thought of 
himself. He was in a serious case, perched in an 
oak, in the wild hills, his horse lost, his friends far, 
his foes near, and the snow coming down so fast 
that it seemed to crowd the air. 

He dropped to the ground and tried to get his 
bearings. But he knew nothing, except that before 
him lay a large valley into which the buffaloes had 
gone. The great trail that they made was quickly 
covered by the falling snow. In the east was a yel- 
lowish blur, which told that the sun was rising, but 
the sun itself was invisible through the mass of sul- 
len clouds. 



374 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

Bob was in great doubt. He might stay among 
the trees and find some sort of shelter there, but it 
would lead to nothing. On the other hand, it might 
be that his friends had taken refuge in some such 
valley as this, and he decided at last to enter it, and 
cross it if possible. When he fell down the diff in 
crossing the pass, he had taken the boldest course 
and won. He might succeed again. At least, if 
he needed food the buffaloes would be there, and he 
had his rifle. 

He left the trees and entered the plain, plun^g 
forward over rough ground, through the snow, and 
unable to tell much about the region into which he 
was coming. The falling snow was so dense that 
when he looked back he could no longer see the trees. 
He kept manfully on, trying to maintain the direc- 
tion in which he had started, but not at all certain 
about it. Fortunately the cold was not great, and 
the exercise made his blood circulate freely. 

He expected to cross the valley in an hour or two, 
but he did not come to any trees, and he thought 
that he might be walking in a circle. There was 
no way in which to tell, and he stuck to his task, 
going forward without stopping, until he thought 
it must be noon. Then he stopped, crouched down 
in a little hollow and drew the blankets over his 
head. Most of his food supplies were gone with 
the horse, but with a hunter's precaution, he had 
put some pemmican in his belt, and now he ate 
eagerly. Then he rested a while, but he was afraid 
to stay long, and transferring the blankets from his 
head to his body he started again. 



A MIRACLE 375 

Bob fought the snow all that afternoon without 
coming to a forest. He passed several clumps of 
bushes and every time he was tempted to seek some 
sort of shelter among them, but always he success- 
fully resisted the temptation, knowing that it would 
not do to yield. The afternoon passed in such 
struggles, and then, the yellowish, pale sunlight 
showing dimly through the veil of snow, began to 
fade. In its place came a whitish darkness that 
filled the boy's soul with apprehension. One could 
not live forever, imsheltered in such a storm. The 
night was at hand, the snow was not abating, and 
he was becoming so weak from his long exertions 
that he could not keep his feet another hour. 

He stood still for four or five minutes, trying to 
choose a course, like a mariner in a storm. Then 
his weakness grew great upon him, but he thought 
that he saw oflf to the left a dark line which might 
be trees. At least hope put trees there, and sum- 
moning his last reserve of strength he walked toward 
the dark line. 

As he came nearer, he was quite sure that he 
could discern the outline of boughs, and then ho 
became aware of peculiar noises, something like 
groanings or gruntings, and he dimly saw darker 
figures under the dark trees. He could not tell 
what they were because he was staggering now with 
weakness, and besides he did not care. He was so 
weary of the eternal snow that he was ready to 
walk straight into an Indian camp, if it was there. 

He reached the trees, and saw what had made the 
noises. Many of the buffaloes were lying undei; 



376 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

them, evidently having sought such shelter from 
the storm, and near the edge of it, some of the big- 
gest were lying in a group, surrounded by the deep 
snow, but keeping one another warm. 

The buffaloes continued their groanings and 
heavings, but did not stir from their places, when 
Bob came near. They shook the snow from their 
manes and looked at him with great, red, incurioiu 
eyes. Perhaps some instinct told them that he 
was harmless, that he too merely sought shelter. 

The boy, the blanket drawn around his shoulders 
and falling down around him like the folds of 
a tunic, stood regarding the group of big bulls, at a 
distance of less than a dozen feet. He was in a 
haze, and the animals, that he would have hunted so 
zealously another time, were now like tame cattle 
to him. They were more. They were sympathetic 
friends, friends in need. He could see it in thdr 
mild, incurious eyes. Man and beast had come 
together at last in a common brotherhood. 

The boy was wholly without fear. Some of his 
reasoning faculties were atrophied for the time, hut 
primitive instincts were strong within him. He 
walked boldly forward, and touched one of the big 
bulls, lying well under the trees, and close to some 
bushes. The animal, apparently, made an effort 
to rise, but sank back in his bed of snow and lay 
quite still. 

Bob surmised that the buffalo was hurt, that in 
the mad rush into the valley a leg perhaps had been 
sprained too severely for him to move after he had 
lain down and it had become stiff. 




'The buffilK Uiirt ii.i.l »,;ik, no long, 



A MIRACLE 379 

once by the skin of the grizzly bear that he had 
shot, once by a wild horse that had become tame, 
and now by a crippled buffalo. Since a miracle had 
intervened in his behalf, he must succeed. Bob 
was not superstitious, but all these circumstances 
seemed to him an omen, powerful and propitious. 
As they had intervened in his favor at the most 
critical moments of his life he must succeed. Hope 
leaped up with mighty impulse. 



CHAPTER XXV 

THE FINAL SETTLEMENT 

Back of Bob was forest, extending for an indefi- 
nite distance along the slopes of hills and monn- 
tains, and he was qnite snre that Sam Strong and 
the others were in this maze. It would be bis wisest 
procedure to find some small stream and follow it 
That course might also lead him to his lost horse. 

After a breakfast of pemmican, he went down 
through the edge of the forest to what seemed to 
be its lowest point, making his way with difficulty 
through the deep snow, but he was rewarded with 
the discovery of a brook that he had no donbt ran 
into the creek. He undertook to follow this to its 
source, and he found that it led upward through an 
extremely narrow ravine. He went against the 
stream four or five hours, making perhaps ten miles, 
and then came upon a little plateau clothed in forest 
Here he was so much exhausted that he sank down 
on a fallen log, ready for a long rest The long rest 
did not come because a voice powerful and pene- 
trating hailed him with these words : 

"Hold up your hands I Tell who yon are I And 
be quick about itl'' 

Bob knew that voice. Its tones filled him with 
delight, and he felt moreover an overwhelming 
sense of triumph, because he had succeeded in the 
face of such tremendous obstacles. He threw both 

380 



THE FINAL SETTLEMENT 381 

hands as high above his head as they would go, 
and shouted: 

* ^ My name is Eobert Norton I I come from many 
places, and I'm looking for six rascals, Samuel 
Strong, William Cole, Obadiah Pirtle, Louis Perolet, 
Thomas Harris and Porter Evans. Have you seen 
them? 

**By all the stars I and the sun I and the moon, 
tool if it ain't the youngster, alive an' kickm^r* 

Sam Strong made a rush through the sncHv", seized 
Bob by the hand, and nearly wrung it off in the 
violence of his joy. 

*'Is it you. Bob! Is it really youT' he exclaimed. 
**An' did you come on the edge of the storm! Are 
you sure you ain't no ghost, slippin' aroun' to 
ha'nt us?" 

**No," replied Bob, exuberantly, **I'm no ghost, 
but I did come in on the edge of the storm. Where 
are the others? Are they alive? Are they well?" 

*^ They're alive, an' if they ain't well I don't want 
to see 'em when they are well. They're eatin' their 
heads off in the stall at a rate that's somethin' 
tre-men-jeous. I s'pose if they was real well they'd 
eat up a whole buffalo herd, hoof an' horns. Now, 
Bob, boy, I've always been hopin' for the best, but 
I sca'cely hoped for this." 

He wrung Bob's hand again, and then the boy 
said : 

**I believe, Sam, it was a miracle that saved me 
last night, and maybe it was another miracle that 
sent me here. I'll tell about it after I've seen the 
fellows. Where are they?" 



382 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

**Back in our shack in the woods. We hunted 
for you, days an' days, an' at last had to give you 
up. Then we started ag'in for the East, but the 
Cheyennes were so thick on the plains that we had 
to come here in the hills, an' hole up for the winter." 

**The Cheyennes are in these hills, too," said 
Bob, **but I've come ahead of 'em an' I think I'm 
in time. I'll tell that, too, as soon as I reach the 
others." 

Sam Strong repressed a start. 

**Come on," he said, and led the way to the 
thickest part of the woods, in which Bob presently 
saw the outlines of a rude cabin. 

**We didn't build as well as we did back there 
near the Colorado," said Sam, apologetically^ 
** because we wasn't expectin' to stay as long. All 
we needed was a shanty. But all the boys are 
inside, an' the horses are in the woods back of us.*' 

He pushed open the rude door and said simply : 

"Boys, here's Bob; he's come back ag'in!" 

Bill Cole dropped the rifle that he was polishing. 
Louis Perolet dropped the fish that he was cooking. 
Obadiah Pirtle dropped a moccasin that he was 
repairing, and an elaborate discussion on the Civil 
War, conducted with some heat by Tom Harris and 
Porter Evans, was dropped in the middle of a sen- 
tence. The five sprang to their feet and made a 
rush at the boy. They overwhelmed him with 
handshakings, and then pushed him to the fire where 
he might thaw out. 

Bob's joy, like that of the others, was exuberaid! 
and bubbling, but he did not spend more than fifteen 



;:! 




THE PINAL SETTLEMENT 383 

minutes in impulsive question and answer. Li that 
time he told briefly of the two great battles through 
which he had passed, and listened to their expres- 
sions of wonder. Then he said: 

**A band of Cheyennes, with Carver and two or 
three other white men like him, are in these hills, 
not far away, looking for us. I have seen them 
myself, and they may come up the valley as I did.'* 

**Tell us all you know about it. Bob,'* said Sam 
Strong, instantly becoming the quiet, resolute and 
resourceful leader. 

Bob told everything. His imaginative mind 
painted all the details vividly, and they understood 
clearly what they must expect. Sam Strong quickly 
made his decision. 

**Ef they come,'* he said, ** they 11 come up the 
ravine that you followed. Bob. It's the only pos- 
sible way in here, through such deep snow, an' 
they'll have to come slow. 'Stead o' waitin' for 
them to attack us, we'll go meet 'em. like as not, 
they'll come along to-night, plowin* through the 
snow, an' what with an ambush an' a surprise, it'll 
be plum' funny ef we don't beat 'em. Does my 
plan seem proper to you, boys!" 

** General Lee hisself couldn't have arranged 
better," said Porter Evans. 

*'It's exactly what General Grant would have 
done," said Tom Harris. 

** Since you two mighty captains agree with me," 
said Sam Strong, ^^I reckon there ain't nothin' more 
to be said. Bill, you an' Obe take your rifles, go 
straight to the mouth of that pass an' watch. The 



384 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

rest of ns will be there at sunset, ef you don't bring 
us an alarm before then.'' 

Bill and the Maine man went forth at once, and 
the others began to prepare fresh ammunition, all 
except Bob, who was compelled to rest on a pallet 
of skins. Strong would not let him work, and he 
became reconciled to his enforced rest when told 
that he must recover his strength for battle. 

They had abundant cartridges, as they had used 
very few in the winter, and when the long shadows 
began to fall across the snow in the west, they went 
forth, resolved, in the words of Sam Strong, to make 
an end of it. 

* 'We're tired of bein' chased aroun' by Chey- 
ennes an' fellers like Carver," he said, **an' want 
to go about our business, which is trappin' an' 
sellin' the proceeds." 

As they had the sunset light to guide them, it did 
not take them long to cross the plain, and when the 
twilight was fully come they were signaled by Bill 
Cole and the Maine man. The two were hidden 
behind some big trees, where they had a view of the 
pass for a long distance. The narrow way was now 
filled with deep snow, and no one could come 
through it except slowly. The steep sides were 
impossible, as any attempt to climb them now would 
bring down an avalanche of snow. Sam Strong 
surveyed the position with delight. 

**It was jest made for us," he said. "Why, Bill, 
standin' here, we could drive back an army." 

'* Certain," said Bill Cole. **We could drive 
back two of 'em. Do you think, Sam, we ought to 



a 



THE FINAL SETTLEMENT 385 

put onr own army on both sides of the passf 

**No," replied Strong. ** It'll be better fnr us to 
stick together. Then, whatever happens to one of 
us will happen to all, an' there won't be no divisions 
of any kind." 

** Beckon you're right, Sam," said Bill. 

They settled down in a close group and waited, 
speaking rarely, and then only in whispers. They 
had brought their blankets along in order that they 
might be warm and their sinews elastic when the 
time came for battle. These blankets were wrapped 
closely about them, and each huddled figure looked 
shapeless in the darkness. 

, Bob had seen so much now of Indian combat that 
his imagination was not lively, as he sat there with 
his friends in the pass, awaiting the advance of the 
Cheyennes and Carver. The joy that he felt at the 
reunion carried over, as it were, and the coming 
event cast no shadow. 

There was a yellow half moon and it tinted the 
snow. The pass itself seemed to have a sort of 
golden glow. A timber wolf howled at the crest of 
a hill, but the huddled figures behind the trees filled 
him with terror, and he would go no further. He 
howled again, and fled to the higher hills. The 
huddled figures paid no attention. 

It was half way between twilight and midnight, 
and the moon was fading, but the seven could still 
see clearly anything that might move in the pass. 
They saw nothing, but Sam Strong held up a warn- 
ing finger. 

** Listen I" he said. 



386 HORSEMEN OP THE PLAINS 

They heard a faint crushing sound. 

^^ Their footsteps in the snow/' said Sam. 
** They 're comin'.'' 

Bob strained his eyes down the pass, and a dark 
face emerged into the moonlight, then another and 
another, nntil the whole band of the Indians, with 
Carver and his friends appeared, laborionsly toil- 
ing through the snow, in which they sank to their 
knees at every step. The moon at that moment 
seemed to shine at a new angle and its rays fell 
full upon them. As they drew near Bob saw that 
their faces were eager and hideous with the passion 
for blood and revenge. Whatever compunctions he 
might have had about firing upon them from 
ambush, were dissipated now. He and his friends, 
for the sake of their own lives, must use the advan- 
tage they held. 

**When they come opposite that fallen tree, fire,'* 
whispered Sam Strong. **I'll count, but 1*11 count 
only one.'* 

Bob drew an imaginary line across the snow, and 
pushed his rifie forward a little. He saw that all 
the Indians carried their rifles well in advance, and 
that they were looking eagerly up the pass. He 
had no doubt that they had obtained information 
from some wandering warrior of the presence of 
the band. 

^^One!" said Sam Strong in a sharp, tense 
whisper. 

Seven rifles were fired so close together that they 
made but a single report, and all the leaders of the 
Indian band went down in the snow, while the others 



I rl 



THE FINAL SETTLEMENT 387 

gave forth a shout of consternation and rage. 
Before they could recover, the seven poured in 
another volley. 

Overwhelmed by the surprise, which had in it 
also a strong element of super stitiaus terror, since 
the attack seemed to come like a thunderbolt from 
heaven, the Lidians rushed back down the pass. 
j ** After 'eml'* cried Sam Strong, **but keep 
behind the trees where they can't see us I We must 
hit 'em as they run, an' they'll never come backl" 

He led along the slope, and they shot rapidly at 
the running Lidians who were now in a state of 
absolute panic. Bob and Sam were in advance, 
firing as fast as they could reload and pull the 
trigger. Neither, in the excitement of the pursuit, 
noticed that a dark figure detached itself from the 
mass and climbed the slope. 

Bob was farthest down the incline, and he had 
just emptied his rifle when the dark figure, pistol in 
hand, came face to face with him. 

**You don't escape this time I" said Juan Carver, 
raising his pistol and aiming at the boy. 

Bob, paralyzed at the sudden appearance of the 
freebooter, was unable to move. The face of Carver 
blazed with triumph. He, at least, would find 
revenge. But as his finger moved toward the 
trigger, Sam Strong hurled himself upon him. 
The pistol was fired, but the bullet went upward, 
and the two men writhed in a powerful embrace. 

Bob, recovering his power over himself, drew his 
own pistol and ran forward. But he could not use 
it. The two men, almost equal in strength, went 



388 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

down in the snow, and whirled over and over. He 
heard hard breathing, muttered cries, and the 
crunching of snow. Then they rolled toward the 
last edge of the slope, and Bob himself uttered a 
cry. The snow gave way and the two, still locked 
fast in each other's arms, shot down in a white 
avalanche into the pass. The sliding snow moved 
for a minute, and then the boy, looking down, could 
neither see nor hear anything. 

** They 're both killed!" exclaimed Bob in horror. 

**We'll see," said Bill Cole. 

All the surviving Indians had disappeared, flee- 
ing in such terror that they would never return 
again, and Bill did not consider it worth while to 
bother about them any longer. He and the others 
carefully climbed down the slope, and stood in the 
deep snow at the bottom of the pass. But they 
saw nothing. 

**Now, I wonder where Sam is," said Bill Odle 
in much alarm. 

**Here!" replied a voice, weak but confident, and 
a white figure, rising out of the depths, stood ereot 

**Sam!" they exclaimed joyfully and together. 

Then they added: 

*^ Where's Carver!" 

*^ There," replied Sam, pointing to the place in 
the snow from which he had arisen, his voice very 
solemn. **He's dead. I think that, as we rolled 
down, his head hit a rock wEch mine didn'f 

It was true. Carver's skull was fractured, and 
he was quite dead. 

** Providence must have been watchin' over 



THE FINAL SETTLEMENT 389 

as it was watchin' over yon last night. Bob,'* said 
Sam Strong, and his tone was devont and grateful. 
'*I'm always hopin' for the best, and often I get 
better than I deserve/' 

They took the body of Carver from the snow the 
next day and gave it Christian bnriaL 



Bob and his comrades remained in the hills nntil 
the winter broke up. His lost horse, driven by the 
instinct of companionship, joined the others, saddle, 
blanket and supplies still strapped on him, and Bob 
soon reduced him to order. 

The snow melted, the trail became good, and they 
went down into the plains, taking a straight course 
to the northeast. Fortune was with them, and they 
met no more Indian bands, but they passed many 
troops, and Bob saw again all his old friends. Jack 
StillweU, Pete Trudeau, California Joe, and the 
young Mexican, Bomeo. 

When their furs were sold and the money was put 
where it would be safe, Sam Strong asked the 
question : 

**What is to become of this bandf 

*'It's goin' to the new beaver streams you an* 
Bob an' Obe an' me found away down the Colo- 
rado, ' ' said Bill Cole. 

* * Is that so T ' ' said Sam Strong to the Maine man. 

**I reckon it is,'' replied Obadiah Pirtle. 

*'I know eet ees," said Louis Perolet. **The 
great Napoleon, after making one brilliant cam- 
paign, would make another." 



390 HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS 

Tom Harris and Porter Evans joined in the gen- 
eral approval. 

"An* you, Bobf said the leader. 

The boy's eyes were shining. 

"We're bound to go to those new beaver 
streams," he said. 

That was where they went. 

THE BKD 



Sl)72 H6 



iMIIilff 



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